News-Register file photo##Amity High School has a long tradition of football success while using the warriors nickname.
News-Register file photo##Amity High School has a long tradition of football success while using the warriors nickname.
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Amity Warriors no more, state officials say

As a social science teacher at Amity High School, Joel Magill includes the history of Native Americans and their interaction with white settlers, particularly in Oregon’s Willamette and Yamhill valleys, into his curriculum.

“I even refer to it, to my students, as the American Holocaust,” he said. “We had systematic instructions to remove Native Americans from their land.”

Meanwhile, as Amity’s longtime football and track coach, Magill has led teams of Warriors onto playing fields across the state — and with great success, particularly in football. But the nickname, and the Native American imagery used as a backdrop throughout the high school, are among the touchstones over a debate on acceptability of the mascots.

Raging since 2006, that debate culminated Friday in a unanimous state Board of Education demand to 14 Oregon high schools that they drop their Native American nicknames. And it applies to Amity, even though the locally based Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has not joined other tribes in raising objection.

Seven schools are currently sharing the Warrior nickname, but one, Aloha High School, has argued successfully that its nickname is rooted in Hawaiian rather than Native American heritage. Seven others are using other names of Native American origin.

According to The Oregonian, the affected schools stand to lose state funding if they fail to comply by 2017.

The Grand Ronde Tribe, whose reservation straddles the Polk and Yamhill county line, asked the school in 2001 to discontinue use of a plastic mascot head caricature it deemed offense. But it has never taken a stand on the school nickname, as some other tribes have in their parts of the state.

Athletic Director Reg McShane couldn’t be reached, but Magill said he would miss the longstanding Warrior nickname.

“Quite honestly, I hate to see it go, especially for some longtime Amity people,” he said. “It’s just a symbol for team unity and for people to band together.

Magill conceded, “The only reason why they basically became “Warriors,” “Redskins,” “Savages” is because they were fighting back from having their land taken. To get that title now as aggressive people, it is kind of insulting.”

But he said of his players, “I don’t think they envision angry Indians attacking people.” And he asked how state board members can definitely say “a warrior implies a Native American warrior?”

The use of Native American mascots in the athletic arena is also being scrutinized on the national level.

The NFL’s Washington Redskins have come under intense pressure to change their name, but have steadfastly refused. They have gone so far as to hire actors portraying Native Americans to represent the franchise, according to Deadspin.com.

In response, a number of major U.S. publications, including The Oregonian in Portland, have adopted policies against use of the team nickname in their pages.

Florida State University has also come under fire for its use of the Seminoles name, even though it enjoys the endorsement of many members of north Florida’s Seminole tribe. It has also held steadfast so far.

The University of North Dakota’s athletic teams have long been known as the Fighting Sioux, but will receive a new nickname, to be chosen from fan submissions. And the school made it clear nothing with ethnic overtones will be considered.

In the meantime, the clock is running for 14 Oregon high schools, including Amity. Bowing to the inevitable, Magill has just one question: “Are they going to give us money to fund changeovers?”

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