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Tukwut disappeared at Cal State University San Marcos prior to campus elections for a mascot (Tukwut, the Luise

o word for Mountain Lion, is pronounced “TOOK-woot”). Some say Tukwut walked into the brush at the eastern edge of the campus and never came back. Whatever the case, it needs to be pointed out that Tukwut disappeared before the student elections.

The first graduating class at CSUSM wanted to recognize the first people of the land where the campus is located, so a tribal elder was asked for a Luise�o word. The elder suggested several animal names, and the first graduating class voted on them and accepted Tukwut as a gift.

Unlike many colleges that inappropriately take the names of tribes to which they don’t belong, CSUSM had done something different. The college’s mission statement called for a global vision, so the students had started at home by acknowledging the oldest culture in our area.

The real story about how the college lost such an important gift has not yet been told but needs to be heard.

Let’s start with the story in the North County Times, which reported that the first graduating students voted for Tukwut. So far, so good. But then the story says that students found Tukwut didn’t fall trippingly off the tongue. The only word that does not seem to trip off the tongue is the newspaper’s source for this “fact.” But even if Tukwut (remember, sounds like “TOOK-woot”) is not a common word, should that matter? For more than 200 years the U.S. Government has insisted that Native Americans speak English, at times even taking American Indian children away from their families and forbidding them to speak indigenous languages. It does not speak well for the intelligence of Euro-Americans if we cannot learn one two-syllable word, a small word that was a gift, a word offered across a bloody and evil hole in history that still separates our peoples.

The North County Times unfortunately missed the real story of how Tukwut disappeared. No doubt the administration might say that the students voted for another name, but that is a partial truth. If you read the North County Times’ article carefully you will see that a “college committee” wanted to solve the mascot “problem.”

The newspaper does not say that the administration–not the students–initiated the committee and that the committee agreed that Tukwut–the students’ first choice–would be on the ballot. Yet somewhere between the committee work and the printing of the student ballot, Tukwut disappeared. Students had two choices: cougar or mountain lion, choices that would not require the college to change its Tukwut logo on stationary, sweatshirts, hats, website, etc.

CSUSM student Dolwain Green heard in the campus newsletter Tracks that students would get to vote again for Tukwut, and he expected the mascot to win. “We don’t want to go backwards,” Green said. “Tukwut reflects our efforts to appreciate and embrace diverse culture.”

But where did the Tukwut go? Asociated Student President David Alimi said Tukwut was missing from the referendum submitted to students by the University Image Task Force established by President Alex Gonzalez. “The task force wanted to avoid controversy,” Alimi said. “And nothing goes before the students without the president’s approval.”

Certainly Native American mascots can cause controversies when they are derogatory, as in the “Redskins,” or when non-Indians take a tribal name such as in the “Seminoles” or “Aztecs.” But Tukwut was not derogatory or a tribe name, so where did the controversy come from?

One of President Gonzalez’ first public acts as President of CSUSM was to announce in the Union Tribune that Tukwut would be “dropped for something with more ring.” He then admitted that he did not know how to spell the word. As educators, CSUSM administrators should probably learn the word. Learning is a good example for educators to set. Furthermore, learning a new word is a better use of administrators’ time than rigging student elections.

Now that the college has a mascot that even the globally-challenged can probably pronounce–is cougar  pronounced “COO-gurr” or “COO-gahr”?–the campus can move on to the next set of business: the administration plans to rewrite the college’s mission statement, which calls for global vision. How can the college claim to have a global vision while manipulating a ballot to eliminate an indigenous word?

The Luise�o people have survived worse things than the rude behavior of the newest dignitary sent West. CSUSM students had hoped they could go forward, but a mascot name is such a small thing when one considers that after nearly a century such basic issues as the Luise�os’ water rights are still not respected in North County. As writer Sherman Alexie has said, until we have honored all treaties, it will be difficult for our two peoples to go forward.

To the Luise�os, at least one CSUSM faculty offers you an apology. To President Gonzalez’ administration, realize that when you refuse a gift of respect, the respect stays with the giver.


Brandon Cesmat is a Valley Center freelance writer and adjunct professor at CSUSM. This column appeared in The North County Times and Visions.


Going to the grocery store is unpleasant.  It is unarguably expensive, even with coupons, and even if I were crazy dedicated like the folks on TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” I still wouldn’t be buying fresh organic fruits and vegetables.  Therefore, I have decided to create my own little organic vegetable/fruit haven right out on my tiny apartment patio.  I was a little worried about it at first but the successes of  lifeonthebalcony and urbanorganicgardener have given me the confidence to invest the time and effort and get my hopes up. View full article »

How the errors of others ended my college career.

People make mistakes. I think that doing so is perfectly normal, understandable, and generally, easily corrected.

I am unemployed, despite my best efforts to find employment. I am a financial aid student. For those of you who understand what that means you will appreciate the significance of what I am about to tell you.

At the beginning of the Spring 2011 semester, I realized that I qualified for the Cal Grant C transfer and filled out the appropriate paperwork. Several weeks later I received and email from my financial aid department saying they had been notified that I qualified and were updating my account. They told me I would need to provide verification before they could do anything. A week later they emailed me back. The first email, the one that required action on my part, was an error. They didn’t really need anything. I’d already known that and gave them a week to figure it out. I was not disappointed.

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I was ‘gate raped’ by my government


Published: April 16th, 2011 07:08 PM
Last Modified: April 16th, 2011 07:08 PM

We’re Alaskans. We fly.

I don’t like it, but with 80 percent of our communities off the road system, flying is a necessary part of our lives.

Last month, Rep. Sharon Cissna, a survivor of both physical abuse and breast cancer, refused an invasive TSA pat-down at SeaTac. Instead of flying, she returned to Juneau by ferry. I reported her story on my radio show with a lump in my throat. She’s an Alaska hero.

I am not.

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I’m not sure if this has a purpose. I can say with certainty that I am [clearly] not in the best of moods. If I was on heavy medication [I’m not] I would worry that I had forgotten to take it.

April 15, 2011
Prompt 1 Language Person

“Why does it matter?”
“Excuse me?”
“Why does it matter, language? Why does any of this matter?”
“I’m not sure I understand the question”

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Generally, I don’t find myself appreciating calm stories of TSA theater. Though in this case, the sentiment behind the action makes it so very worthwhile.

Last Wednesday, after a fabulous trip to DC, I flew back to San Francisco through Dulles International Airport and had the opportunity to opt out of a whole-body imaging scan (aka backscatter x-ray, strip-search machine, nude-o-scope). I use “opportunity” here on purpose: shortly before I left for my trip, I did a bunch of research on the then brand-new enhanced screenings and was thoroughly prepared. Knowing, from self-defense classes, how adren … Read More

via Swampwalker

Laws of the Special

I believe in happily ever after.  I believe that the strong and valiant prince, or princess, can overcome any obstacle in the pursuit of justice, honor, loyalty and love.  I believe that there is no problem insurmountable, no villain unconquerable.  I believe these things despite a lifetime of lessons that disagree.  I struggle to understand if I believe these things because they are somehow true or if I believe them because I have been socialized to think them.  I like to believe that as a human being I know things to be true on some genetic level.  Yet as a student of literature, I can see the world as it was thousands of years ago through the eyes of its inhabitants.  As a student of history I understand that humanity is very nearly identical in nature, throughout all of the ages.  I find that I have little choice but to accept that contrary to reality, my culture wants me to believe that special rules exist for special View full article »

I have a professor that I do not understand.  That is not to say that I do not comprehend the material: I do.  I simply cannot understand the words that are coming out of his mouth.  While I struggle with this, I have come to accept that I have little control View full article »

Head on over to TINYSPROUT to read KissingUnderSpiderWebs’ fantastic grab of Scott Adams’ (Dilbert creator) blog.  The fun parts are the snippets like this:  “The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone. You don’t argue with a four-year old about why he shouldn’t eat candy for dinner” (Adams).

Thank you Heidi Breuer for being difficult and informative even during the most stressful and highly emotional times.  Thank you Uncle Ken Mendoza for being open to thought experiments.

An experiment I am proud of that doesn’t make me seem like a crazy-pants institution-escapee.

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