Teams Terminate Peace Pipe Tradition
Carlos Ballesteros | Nov. 15, 2013, 9:54 p.m.
In light of concerns about cultural insensitivity, the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Pomona-Pitzer athletic departments have decided to discontinue the practice of passing the Peace Pipe trophy to the winning team in the annual CMS vs. P-P football game. The decision brings a 54-year-old tradition to an end and has prompted mixed feelings among the players on each team.
The decision was initiated by a grievance raised by the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA) about the trophy, which is used ceremoniously in many American Indian traditions, particularly by the Great Plains tribes, who officially call it a "Chanupa."
“The Chanupa being passed back and forth between teams as a trophy is inconsistent with the actual spirituality behind the object,” ISA member Laurie Covarrubias PZ ’16 said.
"It’s used in a way to open up conversation," president of ISA Mariah Tso SC ’14 said. "When it’s pulled out, it’s used to equalize people so that everyone has the right to speak. To use it as a trophy really perverts the original use for it."
Both CMS Athletic Director Mike Sutton and P-P Athletic Director Charles Katsiaficas said that they had never heard complaints regarding the Peace Pipe in their respective 13- and 27-year careers at their departments.
“The meetings went very well,” Tso said. “We were expecting that this issue was going to blow up, but that was not the case at all. [ISA] was able to voice our concerns, and [Sutton and Katsiaficas] were able to listen.”
“Their expression of what was going on was especially enlightening to me," Sutton said. "I was especially pleased by such a reasonable approach made by ISA. That goes a long way when you’re talking to people when you’re bringing up something we hadn’t considered before. We thought of the Peace Pipe as a representation of the peace after the ‘conflict’ and nothing more.”
CMS and P-P football players have expressed concern over the timing of the decision and the ending of a longstanding tradition.
“Every Stags football player dreams of winning the Peace Pipe,” Tyler Stanek CM ’16 wrote in an e-mail to TSL.
“Winning the Peace Pipe resembles all of the hard work, injuries, two-a-days, practices, and workouts that the team has persevered through,” he wrote. “I sincerely wish the Peace Pipe was not discontinued, as it exemplifies the tradition between the two football teams at the 5Cs and all of the great memories that are shared by teammates on their path to attaining the Peace Pipe.”
“We were a little bummed about the time of the decision,” Garret Bell PO ’14 said. “Being that it was announced the week of the game, it took the wind out of our sails a little bit. It would’ve been nice if they could’ve waited an additional week and said that this was the last one we’re playing for, or if the decision would’ve come at the beginning of the season to have a chance and find something new to play for.”
Some players supported the decision, howver. Julian Roberts PZ ’17 said he understands and accepts the reasons for ending the tradition.
“Where I grew up, there was a lot of misuse of terms and cultures by my fellow high school students,” he said. “Coming to Pitzer, I was very self-conscious and mindful of people’s different opinions. It was a really legitimate concern.”
Allison Barnwell CM '14, an ISA member who runs cross country for CMS, originally introduced the idea to Sutton.
"Once I understood that peace pipes are sacred objects to certain Lakota tribes, akin to a cross for Christianity, I began to see the full extent of damage our college tradition inflicted on the cultural representation of American Indians," she wrote in an e-mail to TSL. "I knew the CMS department, and I understood that both the administration and the athletic director would understand why the Peace Pipe tradition had to stop once they learned the implications for Native students, visitors, and the broader cultural representation of American Indians."
Tso said that during one of the meetings that took place in early October, ISA provided historical documents to Sutton and Katsiaficas that demonstrated the original use of the Peace Pipe.
According to documents retrieved from Honnold/Mudd Library’s Special Collections, which ISA showed to TSL, the Pomona College athletics department released a pamphlet known as the “Sagehen Spectator” in 1959, the year the Peace Pipe tradition began. The book identified the current director of the Pomona athletics department as “The Chief,” and the head and assistant coach as “The Indians.”
“Being that it wasn’t the players being labeled as 'Indians,' it wasn’t subordination, but more of capturing the essence of the time,” Covarrubias said. “In reading the documents, it didn’t seem like there was a negative connotation to the tradition, but it was still very naïve and [had a] whimsical approach to it.”
Austin Crist CM ’16 said that he was “sad to see the Peace Pipe go so suddenly,” but added that the rivalry between CMS and P-P is enough to carry the tradition forward.
“Regardless of the Peace Pipe being there or not, there is something very special about the rivalry between CMS and Pomona," Crist wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “It doesn't matter what the records of either team are leading up to the 9th game, both schools want to win more than anything and bring the bragging rights back to athletic programs. “
Sutton said that the athletic departments hope to select a new tradition by the end of the semester.
“We plan to involve players, especially seniors, alums, coaches, and any other parties we deem necessary,” he said.
As to what will happen to the Peace Pipe, ISA and the athletic departments are currently working to determine how to properly retire the object.
“The options are to either retire it and return to those who are rightful pipe carriers, or to somehow find a way to use it as an educational tool to show how it is not appropriate to use native items as trophies,” Tso said.