WASILLA — A group of Wasilla High School students are beginning work toward rebranding the Wasilla Warrior logo to more accurately depict the Dena’ina Athabascan indigenous Alaskans it represents. The discussion around the rebranding of the Wasilla Warrior continued on Wednesday with a discussion at Wasilla High School by community leaders.
“We had a petition that said the warrior needs to be removed. We are not removing the warrior, we are not getting a new mascot. We are updating our mascot and we learned as an administrative team, language is huge. Language is important when you use the word change, often people think that you’re changing the whole thing and so really what we’re doing is we’re updating our logo and we’re redesigning it to better represent and be more specific to our area,” said WHS principal Jason Marvel. “We want to make sure there’s one logo that defines us that’s easily recognizable. It’s going to be a student led committee and we are in the process of updating our logo.”
The Mat-Su Borough School Board Regulation 7512 and Administrative Regulation 7512 details the guidelines for mascot selection and how schools must go about changing their mascot with student led committees. On Monday, eight WHS students and four WHS artists will meet with members of the Knik Tribal Council on Zoom to better understand the history of Dena’ina Athabascans. The conversation between the Knik Tribal Council and WHS administrators began long before the controversy over the NFL franchise in Washington., D.C. now referred to as “Football Team.” Along with the logo redesign, Marvel said that a display case in the front foyer will be filled with replica items from the Ahtna and Dena’ina Athabascan indigenous Alaskans.
“We started brief conversations with Knik Tribal and covid hit so over the summer I met with them again and ironically I met with them talking about this display case and how we could get funds and I think it was two or three days later this huge mascot thing blew up,” said WHS assistant principal Karen Bloxsom.
Over 20 Wasilla residents attended the discussion led by Marvel in the theater at WHS including Mat-Su Health Foundation CEO Elizabeth Ripley, 18-year WHS principal Dwight Probasco and Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle. Members of the community applauded the WHS administration’s work involving the community.
“A lot of it we can get done is partnerships. I can’t do it all, you can’t do it all but together we can do anything we want and as long as we have public support we will do anything we want,” said Cottle.
The process defined in BR 7512 and AR 7512 dictates that students will select three logos to present to the student body for a vote. Prior to the presentation of logos, students on the committee will be educated by the Knik Tribal Council, something Marvel says is essential to the process.
“We’re having a historian present to this committee and the four artists and our art teacher so we’re really trying to educate first and then build those logos so it represents and again being more specific to our area,” said Marvel.
The planned display case for the front foyer is intended to educate students about the history of Chief Wasilla and why Wasilla got its name. Cottle had offered support from the city to pay for the construction of the display case and Knik Tribal Council has committed to offering financial support for redesign of artwork around Wasilla. Marvel said that the WHS administration also has a plan for the statue in front of the school.
“We’re always talking about the mountain and the view and students will rise to the expectation that you set and we really believe that every student should summit the mountain and we give students that opportunity so no student should be denied this view and so with that idea of high expectations, we knew that when we came in we had to tell our story. If you’re not telling your story, that story is going to be told for you and so we really are in the process right now of rebranding Wasilla High School,” said Marvel.
Currently, nine different iterations of the Wasilla Warrior exist within the school building itself. Marvel said that like a business, the school needs to have an accurate and recognizable brand moving forward. Also announced at the discussion on Wednesday was a plaque acknowledging Ahtna and Dena’ina Athabascan indigenous Alaskans.
“We wish to acknowledge that this school resides on the ancestral land of the Dena’ina and the Ahtna people who have stewarded this area for thousands of years,” reads the plaque. “Our community thrives thanks to their continued sharing of vision, wisdom, values and leadership.”