More than 50 years ago Earl Pottinger graduated from Nogales High School, but he still gets goose bumps when he thinks back to the "war yells" at football games.
"I remember it just like yesterday," said Pottinger, a retired Green Valley resident. "It went, `We're Apache born, we're Apache bred, and when we die, we're Apache dead.' "But the school's nickname, honoring the state's most celebrated American Indians, apparently is about to be laid to rest despite objections of students, alumni and even some Apaches, who consider it a mark of honor.
Call it a victim of political correctness.
"We are a campus that's minority; 95 percent of our students are Hispanic," school principal Marcelino Varona Jr. said. "Having the mascot of another minority culture is inappropriate. Especially when we use it in a negative connotation to go out and `kill' . . . the other team."
The mascot will be changed at the end of the school year, Varona said, and student input will select a new nickname. In the interim, Varona said, he has been helping weed out things he considers offensive to American Indians.
E.E. Pierson Middle School, which called itself the Braves, was closed in favor of a new school, the Desert Shadow Diamondbacks. Va-ro-na said he also pulled the plug on the mascot at games, a student dressed in American Indian garb with an oversize Apache head.
Next was getting rid of the public-address announcement that begins, "Good morning, Apaches," removing the Apache face etched in stone on the school sign and changing the name of the football field, Apache Stadium.
Apache leaders, however, say they feel anything but offended.
"We fought against those people on the border for many years so I feel honored that they thought enough of us to take our name," said Lafe Altaha, vice chairman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe. "We just want them to win, like the Apache helicopter during the Persian Gulf War."
John Wesley, a San Carlos Apache tribal councilman, also said he sees nothing wrong with schools and sports teams associating themselves with Indian monikers.
"The Fort Thomas High School Apaches are a source of great pride on the reservation," Wesley said. "They bring us positive recognition just like the Nogales Apaches. I mean, it's just a name."