Oregon School Board: No more Native American Mascot Names for Oregon public schools – Reaction from Siletz Tribes
The Oregon School Board today voted 5-1 to order the end of public schools in Oregon using Native American names, symbols, logos or mascots in their school name. The vote came after hours of back and forth testimony, nearly a thousand letters and long discussions with the public. In the end, the board ruled that despite deep respect for Native American cultures and their rich and varied histories, the slogans and mascots must go lest Native American school children suffer low self esteem and are robbed of their true identity since not every student is a Native American yet they claim the name; a form of psychological identity theft. The state school board said any Oregon public school that uses a Native American name or symbols like Redskins, Indians, Chiefs, or Braves will have to pick something else to be known by within five years.
In the case of a name like the Siletz Warriors, the school board ruled that Siletzcan keep the name “Warriors” since the term warriors can be applied to any culture – but they’ll have to drop the logo of the chief with a full headdress,
There is more detail in this information notice sent this afternoon from the Oregon State Board of Education to all publicly funded schools in the state:
(Salem, Ore.) – The Oregon State Board of Education today voted 5-1 to adopt a rule prohibiting Oregon public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots. Schools have until July 1, 2017 to comply. Key in this decision was research which showed that exposure to Native American mascots had a negative impact on the self-esteem and self-image of Native American children.
“The concept of Native American mascots being hurtful and racist was not new to me,” said board member Serilda Summers-McGee. “However the testimony we received from students, members of the Native American community, and researchers regarding the impact of Native American mascots on student learning and self esteem was extremely illuminating. 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.”
Researcher Stephanie Fryberg told board members at their April meeting that the use of Native Americans as mascots devalues and limits individual identity, even when these mascots are designed with the best intentions and are considered to be “honoring” and “respectful.”
“I do not believe any of our schools with Native American mascots intended to be disrespectful,” said Superintendent Susan Castillo. “However, intent is not enough. We need to focus on what the impact is on our kids. Our role as educators needs to be to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all of our students-an environment which honors them for who they are as individuals with a rich and varied cultural history. We can no longer accept these stereotypical images for the sake of tradition-not when they are hurting our kids.”
The board held over eight hours of public testimony on the topic and received over 700 pieces of written testimony.
More than 100 organizations have endorsed the discontinuation of Native American mascots nationally, including the National Indian Education Association, the Oregon Indian Education Association, the Society of Indian Psychologists, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, the Oregon ACLU, and the US Commission of Civil Rights.
“Unfortunately, for many of our Native American youth, the decision seems to be between being a mascot and being invisible,” said State Board Chair Brenda Frank, a member of the Klamath Tribes. “It is our job to ensure that those aren’t the only choices. This ban is an important step in removing harmful stereotypes from our schools. However, we also have to ensure that we are teaching all of our students not only about Native American history but also about contemporary Native culture. It is all about the students and them feeling comfortable in their schools and communities.”
Oregon’s 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. Prohibited names include, “Redskins,” “Savages,” “Indians,” “Indianettes,” “Chiefs,” “Chieftains,” and “Braves.” Schools may continue to 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 following is a response from the Siletz Tribes to the action taken by the Oregon School Board
Statement by the Siletz Tribe on the State Board of Education’s
Decision to Ban Native Mascots
We are very disappointed by the State of Oregon Board of Education’s decision to ban the use of Native American mascots by all Oregon schools. In addition, we are equally disappointed that the Tribe’s recommendation to allow Native mascots to be used by our Tribal community schools when approved by their local Tribe was not given consideration.
It is the opinion of the Siletz Tribe that this ban does nothing to address the real issues of racism nor does it address the issue of the low self-esteem of Native students attending public schools. 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.
In March, the Siletz Tribe passed a resolution on Native American Logos and Mascots, recommending to the Board of Education that it “recognize the authority of the Tribes of Oregon to approve the use of Native American mascots and logos in their community schools.”
The resolution went on to say that, “Other schools in the State of Oregon who wish to establish or maintain a Native American logo and mascot be required to promote cultural studies that combat stereotypes, teach students the value of cultural symbols and portray the true history of the people of their local Tribal community, so that they promote pride in and respect for a Native American logo and mascot.”
Unfortunately, these recommendations have been ignored and Siletz Valley School, located in the Tribe’s historical homelands and called the Warriors from the beginning, will have to change its Indian chief mascot.