In a 5-1 vote on Thursday, May 17 the Oregon Board of Education decided the fate of Native American mascots in the state’s schools—they will be no more.
While many districts complained that changing logos would cost too much, the board chose to join Wisconsin in the fight to end the stereotyping by banning Native American mascots—Wisconsin was the first in 2010.
At least 15 schools across the state have five years to get rid of the offensive images or face losing state funding. The ban specifically prohibits the use of names, symbols or images that refer to Native tribes, customs or traditions. Specific names that have been banned include “Redskins,” “Savages,” “Indians,” and “Braves,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
This is stricter than the Wisconsin ban, which allows district residents to lodge a complaint about an offensive mascot and then requires the school to prove that the mascot does not promote discrimination.
“Unfortunately, for many of our Native American youth, the decision seems to be between being a mascot and being invisible,” board chairwoman Brenda Frank, a member of the Klamath tribes, said near the conclusion of more than eight hours of public testimony over the past few months, reported the Los Angeles Times.
The nickname “Warriors” can continue to be used as long as the imagery used with it isn’t associated with Native Americans.
Supporters of keeping the mascots say those who grew up with them are very passionate about and proud of the mascots.
“If you strip these school districts of their mascots that they are so proud of for whatever reason you’re basically doing the same thing that the white man did to the Indians years ago, which is stripping them of their identity,” says Cheryl Martin Sund, of Rogue River, Oregon in an Associated Press video. “Now you could take away our Chieftain logo, you can make us call ourselves something else, but to everyone who graduated from Rogue River High School and all of those kids that are in school there now, they are and will always be Rogue River Chieftains.”
Se-ah-dom Edmo, Shoshone-Bannock/Nez Perce/Yakama, says in the video that those who accept Native mascots are “bargaining for accepted levels of racism.” She is the coordinator of the Indigenous Ways of Knowing program at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and also said: “What they do not seem to grasp is that even small amounts of racism is still racism.”