By AP/NR staff • AP/NR staff • 

Gov. Kitzhaber to think over veto on mascots measure

The measure would reverse a decision by the Board of Education to outlaw Native American mascots beginning in 2017. Schools would be able to keep them if they reach a written agreement with the nearest Indian tribe.

Kitzhaber issued his veto threat in a letter last week to legislative leaders. He says he would support a more narrow exemption similar to one in college athletics.

Critics of Native American mascots say they reinforce stereotypes and promote hostility. Supporters say they’re a source of pride.

The measure passed the House on June 28. It goes back to the Senate, which has already approved it but must agree to changes made in the House.

In May 2012, the Board of Education voted 5-1 to prohibit the use of Native American mascots in Oregon’s public schools. Eight high schools in the state would have to completely change their mascots — names and all imagery — while another seven schools identified as the Warriors would be allowed to keep their nicknames but will have to change mascots or graphics.

Amity High School is one of those seven schools with the Warriors nickname. Already, Amity’s uniforms don’t have any images of Native Americans on them, but there is a mural in the high school and numerous smaller pictures of Native Americans in the gym.

Since the 1970s, more than 600 high school and college teams across the country have done away with their Native American nicknames, including 20 in Oregon.

Critics say Indian mascots are racist, contending they reinforce stereotypes and promote bullying of Native students. Supporters say the mascots are a way to honor Native American history, evoking values of strength and bravery.

In 2006, the Oregon Board of Education adopted a nonbinding recommendation that schools stop using Native mascots. A handful did, but some small communities have resisted the trend, saying the nicknames are a source of pride.

Some critics of the ban said they were concerned about the costs of changing sports uniforms and equipment, school letterhead and street signs.

In some areas, schools have worked with nearby tribes to change their practices without changing their nickname. Roseburg High School, home of the Indians, switched a logo depicting a Native American to a simple feather. Molalla High School changed sports jerseys to say “Molalla” instead of “Indians” and stopped using a mascot dressed like a Native American to lead cheers.

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, requires school boards to prove that their Indian mascots don’t promote discrimination, harassment or stereotyping if someone complains. Dozens of Wisconsin schools still have Native American mascots.

The NCAA limits the use of imagery and names considered hostile and abusive, and a debate still rages over the University of North Dakota’s “Fighting Sioux” nickname and a logo with the profile of an American Indian warrior.

The Oregon Legislature voted in 2001 to eliminate the word “squaw” from geographic names because many Native Americans consider it offensive.


The second half of this report draws from a previous article written in May of 2012 right after the Board of Education's decision.

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