Sammamish High School Administration Embraces Mascot Change

Sammamish High School administration embraced the April 26, 2021, state law, HB 1356, “prohibiting the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots.” SHS Principal, Derrick Richardson, moved quickly to include the students and community to select a new mascot, and students began the school year as “Red Hawks” after 62 years as the “Totems.” Sammamish High School was one of over 30 Washington state schools impacted by the mandate.

Principal Richardson published a public survey for mascot name recommendations in May and established a committee of seven students, three staff members, and three community members to lead the discussions and narrow the list of submitted recommendations to three top choices. The student body voted for the “Red Hawks” in June. The change brought mixed emotions to Sammamish High School staff, students, and alumni, but the school community embraced the change and have started making it their own.

“It’s good for everyone to grow. Everyone respected the decision. There are some people, like myself, that have been Sammamish blood for the past 30-plus years of our lives so when we are changing our names from Totems to Red hawks there’s something that kinda stings, but we completely understand, and we are fully behind it.”

-Wesley Newton – Sammamish High School Graduate, Athletic Director and Mascot Change Committee Member

School Begins Long Process to Update School Materials with New Logo

The process to change the logo on all school materials will take time due to the wide range of areas impacted and the costs and time involved, according to Sammamish High School Athletic Director Wesley Newton. Everything from team uniforms to signage around the school, to the website and school apparel needed updating and may take a full school year to complete, Newton said.

Although it has been difficult for some students to embrace, the student body have come to terms with the change, and even student-section cheers at sporting events have been modified to represent the new mascot, said Sammamish High School ASB student leader Leonardo Ohata. Students on many school organizations and teams have taken the opportunity to design new logos for their school apparel, such as the golf teams, basketball teams and volleyball teams, Ohata said.

“It’s really exciting to see some of our students are designing new emblems. At the end of the day, I think that a lot of us are happy to just have a cool mascot.” EMB

-Sammamish High School ASB student leader and Mascot Change Committee Member Leonardo Ohata


Student ASB and Mascot Change Committee Member Acknowledges Nostalgia of Former Mascot

Ohata also said that he feels the mascot change is a step in the right direction but noted that he feels that the school pride in the former mascot was pure and had no malicious intent. Ohata ran into two Sammamish High School alumni during his college visit to Gonzaga who expressed sadness about the change, and said initially tears were shed by some students. Ohata embraced the new mascot along with his peers though, and his last words during the interview? “Go Red Hawks!”


“We always had a saying – “Totem Pride!” – and we meant no harm by it. It’s been a little sad to see generations change.”

-Sammamish High School ASB student leader and Mascot Change Committee Member Leonardo Ohata

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The Bellevue School District acknowledges that we learn, work, live and gather on the Indigenous Land of the Coast Salish peoples, specifically the Duwamish and Snoqualmie Tribes. We thank these caretakers of this land, who have lived and continue to live here, since time immemorial.