It’s another form of disrespect.
Tribes in Oregon aren’t offended with schools using “Braves” “Warriors” and “Indians” as mascots. They are upset that state school leaders have voted to eliminate all Native mascots in public schools.
“It’s easier to ban Native American images than it is to deal with the real issue,” says Shiobhan Taylor, a spokesperson for Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
Last week, on a 5-1 vote, the Oregon Board of Education banned public schools from using American Indian names and mascots for their athletic teams, out of a concern they disparage native people.
About a dozen Oregon schools have to change their names, and they will get no funding to make the change. The schools are threatened with losing state funds if they don’t change mascots and images by 2017.
AP file photo of the Mohawk High School girls basketball team in Marcola, Oregon
Washington hasn’t made a state-wide decision on Native American names. The discussion comes up frequently in schools districts across the United States. The National Congress of American Indians estimates that there are fewer than 1,000 such mascots left nationwide.
“The Board of Education needs to put their energy and their attention and their talent into making sure that the curriculum our children have in our school system teaches the accurate story of Oregon’s tribes. Our children unfortunately just don’t get that.”
Most of what students learn about Indigenous people begins and ends with the Plains Indians. They’re an archetype in literature and art for American Indians everywhere.
There are nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon and 27 in Washington.
What do Oregon students know about the Umpqua, Klamath, or Molala tribes? Do Washington students understand who the Snoqualmie, Suquamish and other Northwest Indians were and are?
“Unless the teacher has the time – which God knows their schedules are so booked – and the resources to do their own research, there’s no curriculum that the school system is providing to them,” says Taylor. “We would honored and excited to teach students about our culture and that we are still a part of the community. We didn’t go anywhere.”
The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians and Confederated Tribes of Grande Ronde hope state school leaders will reconsider their decision. They’d prefer working with schools to come up with a respectful portrayal of a mascot.
“We certainly wouldn’t want caricatures, we wouldn’t want disrespectful things like the tomahawk chop or a war dance, those would not be respectful, nor are they appropriate to Native American culture,” she says.
Taylor says she’s never been personally offended by the look of an Oregon school mascot.
By LINDA THOMAS