Oregon Board of Education Inches Toward Ban of Native American Mascots

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, March 9, 2012

The Oregon Board of Education will continue to take steps toward adopting rules that could ban Native American mascots from schools across the state.

A score of supporters and critics of a movement to stop schools from using Native American mascots testified at the board’s Thursday meeting, the latest step in a six-year process that started when a Native American student, Che Butler, approached the Board of Education to decry the practice.

The board plans to discuss draft rules regarding a ban at its next meeting in April, and the earliest decision would occur in May.

Butler’s testimony in 2006 spurred an Oregon Department of Education advisory committee's recommendation for schools to get rid of Native American mascots by Sept. 2009, and remove related images by September 2011. Despite the recommendation, 15 high schools across Oregon are still using mascots such as the Indians, Warriors, Braves, or Chieftains.

A number of supporters said the mascots inspire a sense of identity and pride for high schools who have used the mascots for decades. Some Native Americans, such as Stotonic Allison said the mascots are a “great honor.” Allison, who belongs to the Pima tribe, graduated from the Dalles-Wahtonka High School, which uses the "Eagle Indian" as its mascot.

“If our symbol isn’t there to represent who we are, we are going to be hurt,” he said.

But others, like Tom Ball, an assistant vice president at the University of Oregon’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, said they more blatantly represent oppression.

Ball, who is a member of the Klamath Tribes, recalled on Thursday a 1978 incident at Siletz Valley High School, whose mascot is the Warrior. A coach loudly yelled to his players to “kill” their opponents, using an expletive and a pejorative term for Native Americans.

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