Traditional Fight Song Under Attack

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ASUC senators demanded the discontinuation of a traditional UC Berkeley fight song, saying the song contained "offensive" lyrics.

Almost a century old, "The California Indian Song" came under fire after being distributed at the Jan. 21 basketball game against Stanford University.

Squelch! Senator Ben Birken raised concerns over the song at Wednesday's ASUC senate meeting. Birken said he was offended and disgusted at the depiction of skinning and scalping Indians.

"As a fan and a student here, when I was handed that piece of paper at a basketball game I was appalled at the message that it was sending," Birken said.

Birken added that although he recognizes the tradition behind the song, he feels some traditions can become outdated. "Especially at a school like Berkeley, with the various protests we've had over the years and the fact that we are supposed to be a culturally aware campus, to portray stereotypes of Native Americans such as tomahawking and scalping I think is just insulting," he said.

Rally Committee Chair Brian Aeillo said students criticized the song upon distribution at the game.

"The song itself is a very traditional Cal song," Aeillo told the senate. "One of the charges of the Rally Committee is to protect the traditions of Cal, granted that some of the traditions may have become offensive to some people."

He added that printing the lyrics made the song more accessible to audience members.

"The song itself was originally written in 1906 and it has been traditionally played at a lot of our athletic events - especially the Stanford games - so we figured that because the band usually plays it we would print the lyrics out so that the entire student section could sing along to it," Aeillo said.

Aeillo said the fight song has been played by the University of California Marching Band at almost every Stanford game and the distribution of the song was only intended to boost spirit. If the goal is not accomplished, he said there is no reason to hand out lyrics in the future.

"Rally Committee is not opposed to discontinuing some of the traditions which have become offensive to people," Aeillo said. "We take (your criticisms) to heart, and we won't be doing it again."

Aeillo said the song will not be completely banned as students will still be able to research the lyrics. As far as the distribution of lyrics is concerned, the Rally Committee will not print them again.

"Rally Com protects Cal spirit and upholds Cal traditions and a lot of times certain traditions are lost over the years, so in that sense we often bring certain very old traditions back just to bring them out there again," Aeillo said. "The song itself is a little bit out of date - we can all definitely see how some people would take offense to that. Out of respect for everyone else's feelings on the subject, we're not going to print it anymore."

ASUC President Patrick Campbell said he is glad the song was discontinued.

"Some traditions need to die off and this is one of them," Campbell said. "I am offended by the song itself and I am happy to see it go."

Birken also said he was relieved that the Rally Committee will stop printing the lyrics.

"I think if they had stuck to their guns and said tradition wins, they would have had a lot more problems than just one senator," Birken said.



‘We're goin' to scalp you, Stanfurd!

We're goin' to scalp you blue!

We'll do it with Your tomahawk

We took from you. Rah! Rah! Rah!

All ‘round our belts we'll hang them

To show all friends who's dead;

We're goin' to carve some blockheads

Whose scalps are red.'


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