In what is being called one of the toughest restrictions ever placed on the use of Native American mascots, nicknames and logos, the Oregon State Board of Education determined Thursday that eight high schools will need to change their nicknames within the next five years, or risk the loss of state funding. Another seven schools are required to change mascots or logo graphics that depict Native Americans.
The decision, in discussions for six years, requires schools to eliminate names like "Indians," "Chiefs" and "Braves." "Warriors" may stay, but logos may not reference tribal customs or traditions, reports The Oregonian. An unknown number of middle and elementary schools also will be affected. The ban does not apply to colleges - a moot point in Oregon ever since Native American mascots at Southern Oregon University and Chemeketa Community College were dropped.
Critics say Indian mascots are racist, contending they reinforce stereotypes and promote bullying of Native students. Supporters, on the other hand, say the mascots are a way to honor Native American history, evoking values of strength and bravery. "It is racist. It is harmful. It is shaming. It is dehumanizing," Se-ah-dom Edmo, vice president of the Oregon Indian Education Association, told the board, according to an Associated Press report.
But administrators at Molalla High School, home of the Indians where a mascot logo placed prominently throughout the school features the profile of a Native American man with a lined face and full headdress, displayed resistance to Oregonian reporter Ryan Kost - estimating that it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to retire the old mascot. The word "Indian," however, has already been removed from uniforms. "They'll have to find every little thing," said Jennifer Satter, a mother of a Molalla High student and a member of the school's budget committee. "How can this be our top priority? Our kids are suffering. There are so many more pressing issues."
"I'd be hard pressed to find somebody who would want to bring shame to the Molalla Indian Tribe," added Molalla principal Randy Dalton. "There's a lot of tradition here. It's a very respectful community that wants to do the right thing."
State school board member Leslie Shepherd voted against the ban because she said such a ban also should include images such as Devils and Saints.
Still, the move to eliminate Native American mascots makes sense from a societal perspective, Tom Ball, assistant vice president of equity and diversity at the University of Oregon, told the AP, because the mascots serve as a form of oppression that contributes to isolation among Native Americans - manifesting itself in high suicide, incarceration and school dropout rates.
Oregon Department of Education officials say Wisconsin is the only other state to enact restrictions on Native American mascots. Wisconsin's law, approved by the Legislature in 2010, allows a district resident who objects to the use of a race-based nickname, logo or mascot to file a complaint with the state superintendent.