State News

Ban American Indian Mascots? (Or a really dumb idea.)


<<<Name Ban Sparks Tribes’ Ire>>>

….Curb on Indian Imagery in School Teams’ Titles Meets Resistance on Reservations….


BY JOEL MILLMAN   The Wall Street Journal – May 25, 2012


PORTLAND, Ore.—Tribes on two Oregon Indian reservations this week protested a new rule by Oregon education officials that bans public schools from using Native American imagery in team names and mascots.

The rule, which the Oregon State Board of Education adopted last week, is believed to be the nation’s toughest in regulating team names, logos and mascots used in public school athletics, and it follows similar attempts in other states to limit imagery deemed offensive to Native Americans.

Opposition to the Oregon law is rising from two tribes, which rejected the education officials’ decision on different grounds. The Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians, whose reservation lies between the Oregon Coast and the capital of Salem, denounced the rule because its school uses a now-proscribed nickname, The Warriors.

“We will do whatever we can to overturn the Education Board’s decision,” said Tribal Chairman Delores Pigsley.

The Confederated Tribes of La Ronde, southwest of Portland, complained the ruling “trampled on our sovereignty” and ignored the tribe’s longstanding calls for change in how native history is taught in Oregon Public schools.

Similar legislation curbing Indian-name mascots in public schools has been proposed in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Colorado, but has not advanced to law. Wisconsin passed the nation’s first law regulating Indian names in public schools in 2010, although that law is not as tough as Oregon’s.

In Wisconsin, any citizen is empowered to seek a change in any school’s nickname or mascot, but school boards are not bound to agree. Schools can seek permission to keep their names from local tribes or argue their case in a public hearing.

Oregon’s law is stiffer: The ban prohibits using a name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian Tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name. No longer permitted for use: “Redskins,” “Savages,” “Indians,” “Indianettes,” “Chiefs,” “Chieftains,” and “Braves.”

Schools have until 2017 to drop those images. Schools may use the name “Warriors” as long as “it is not combined with a symbol or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian Tribe, individual, custom, or tradition,” the board ruled.

Siletz Valley Early College Academy is one of about 15 Oregon schools that will have to alter either its name or its logo to avoid risking cuts in its funding from the state. “We are a sovereign tribe but the school is a charter school, open to the community, and subject to the state law,” said Tribal Chairman Pigsley.

“It is the opinion of the Siletz Tribe that this ban does nothing to address the real issues of racism,” read a letter released by Diane Rodriguez, a Siletz spokeswoman. “For the Siletz Tribal community, this action has a negative impact on our students and our community. We will be forced once again to succumb to the misguided intentions of people who have no knowledge of Indian communities.”

Christine Miles, a spokeswoman for Oregon’s Board of Education, said it would be impossible to calculate how much Siletz Valley, or any school, might lose in funding for defying the new rule.

Board of Education member Serilda Summers-McGee defended the ban, explaining, “The role of the Board of Education is to create an environment in which all students can learn and thrive; it was imperative that we pass this rule and resolution to remove the use of Native American mascots in our public schools.”

Comments are closed.