Vashon holds onto their Pirate Pride
By Savannah Butcher, Reporter
Islander and retired McMurray principal Mike Kirk has taught on Vashon since 1966 and has seen many changes in the district. Recent pressure from community members hoping to change the Pirate mascot caused Kirk to dig into the mascot and its origins, which revealed a complex history of the Pirate on Vashon.
A central source for Kirk was Reed Fitzpatrick’s 1981 booklet “Vashon-Maury Island School’s, a one hundred year history.”
In 1935, the high school paper “Vashon Hi-Jinx” started referring to VHS sports teams as the pirates, and the Pirate soon appeared on its first yearbook cover.
“Considering that we live on an island… I think [the Pirate] is natural. We’re the pirates, we’re nice people, but we’re pirates. I think it fits the island.” Kirk said.
Over the years the Pirate’s design has changed, but the ideas it represents have not. Vashon’s teams have gathered together and played countless games in honor of the Pirate.
“A mascot is a symbol of strength that draws people together…There is strength in unification. It’s something to identify with.” Kirk said. “When you look at professional teams like football, baseball… they choose a mascot that means something to their group.”
Mascots can have a significant impact on schools, and some teams recently have changed mascots deemed insensitive due to Native American cultural appropriation. One of these mascots include the high school Kirk went to; Bishop Blanchet High School’s “Braves” in Seattle.
“We were the Braves, which was a sign of strength and honor and whatnot,” Kirk said.
The school used to call their pep rallies pow wows, and players were introduced with a tom-tom style drumming. Many students used war paint and feathers at games, but eventually these practices were stopped. Currently Blanchet’s mascot is depicted as a brave knight, and the social change has determined this previous cultural appropriation to be unacceptable.
The first step of the same social change seen at Blanchet is starting on Vashon: controversy.
“There was never much controversy until now. Ten years ago there was a lot of concern about pirates off of the East-African coast,” Kirk said. “That might’ve given a bad connotation to pirates even though we don’t hear too much about it anymore. It never became controversial in relation to the high school’s Pirate.”
Kirk recognizes that there is an appropriate time to get rid of a mascot or any tradition in general.
“[As seen with the renaming of Native-inspired mascots], a social movement arises and society changes their cultural values, and whether it’s a small community or nation-wide, if there’s enough fervor and there seems to be some logic that if the drawing of the figure or character itself starts running foul, that’s the time to change,” Kirk said.
Recently concerns have been brought to the school board concerned about Pirate’s values and how Vashon is being represented by associating with them.
“There’s certainly a time when things have to change and the public will let you know when that happens. This could become a very big deal on the island.” Kirk said. “If there’s enough emotion invested in the cultural change, it will happen.”