AURORA | New mascot, same school spirit. Previously the thunderbirds, Hinkley High School’s mascot has officially changed to “thunder” following a state law limiting the use of Native American imagery in school logos.
The thunderbird is a mythical bird found in a variety of Native American legends and folklore. In 2021, Colorado lawmakers passed a law prohibiting the use of Native American mascots by schools unless they have an agreement with a specific tribe.
Hinkley was one of a number of Colorado schools asked to change its mascot from the thunderbird after the law took effect including Arrowhead Elementary School, which voted in November to change its mascot to the fox.
The school solicited suggestions last year and in December had an online survey where community members were asked to select one of five final options. Along with thunder, other finalists were bluejays, heroes, pilots, and talon (the name of an Air Force jet).
The rationale for thunder was that it is similar to the former mascot and is “a force to be reckoned with,” the survey said.
The survey said that the school will retain its cadet blue and silver colors and motto of “a flight above the rest,” however on Friday a district spokesperson said that the school is still deciding whether or not to keep the original motto.
Stupidly at its finest
It’s a sad day when a Thunderbird is considered racist. We have taken this too far.
What’s notable is that it’s not the only creature that Native American tribes consider to be sacred, but it’s the only one that was singled out.
The thunderbird mascot was notably not even considered as part of this in the legislative process; when the law on this was passed, it was never even mentioned at all–the focus was on depictions of actual Native Americans. It was likely thrown in there because it was included in a paper by an academic named Ezra Zeitler that the commission probably found in a random Google search after they released the first list of schools, so they decided to include the schools with Thunderbird mascots post hoc.
Hinkley should have renamed their mascot to the Falcons and asked the Air Force Academy if they could use the logo that AFA used in the 80s that showed a falcon holding thunderbolts. They could have kept all the thunderbird imagery in the halls and gym, and the school logo, if that was the case.
You missed the opportunity in your article to state that although the school mascot was the Thunderbirds, the name was derived from the United States Air Force elite squadron of the same name. And although they share the same name with the Native American symbol, the school decided to change the mascot to appease the issue rather than embrace it and work with local indigenous peoples and further educate.
For many Hinkley alum we will always and forever be T-Birds! You can’t take that away from us! Class of 1980!!