By editorial board • 

Agreement to keep Warrior mascot a better, but still imperfect, solution

The fate of Native American mascots in Oregon is being settled one-by-one.

Amity High School is one of 15 facing a July 1 deadline to either change mascots, face penalties, or, as Amity has chosen, enter a mascot-retention agreement with one of the state’s nine federally recognized tribes.

Amity’s warrior name and imagery went on the chopping block when the 2012 Legislature passed a ban on Native American mascots in Oregon high schools.
But several tribes took exception to the ruling. They did not feel sensitivity to their cultural history should be determined by a governmental body that had only featured one Native American member in its entire history, the second winning election since that date.

After years of back and forth, the Oregon Board of Education finally amended the ruling to allow schools to retain their mascots, subject to authorization by an Oregon tribe.

We see this as a much better solution.

As representatives of the Grand Ronde and Siletz tribes testified, the mere existence of a Native American portrayal is not inappropriate or derogatory. In fact, to believe that — as many state board members did — can be viewed as insensitive in its own right.

“This is highly offensive and we believe outside the board’s regulatory authority,” said Grand Ronde Tribal Council Chairman Reyn Leno in a 2016 hearing. “Why would the state Board of Education not trust tribal governments to do the right thing in determining what is and what is not culturally appropriate?”

The ruling didn’t completely resolve the issue, however, as different tribes have very different views on what is and isn’t appropriate.

Warrior name and imagery was a not negotiable with the local Grand Ronde Tribe, Amity Superintendent Jeff Clark was told. But the Siletz Tribe, based on Oregon’s central coast, approached the district about a possible agreement.

The Siletz cherish the warrior symbol as part of its heritage. In fact, Amity’s mascot closely resembles that of the Siletz Valley Charter School.

But continued use of the warrior mascot leaves a lot of Native American residents of the region feeling disrespected, despite its approval by the Siletz.

Furthermore, that leaves the Siletz Tribe guiding Native American historical and cultural curriculum in Amity, as the price of approval, rather than the more logical and appropriate Grand Ronde. Hopefully, the district will also incorporate Grand Ronde material.

Despite the imperfections, we feel the state Board of Education should approve the agreement between Amity and the Siletz. It holds more validity than the original, which reflected the iron fist of bureaucracy.


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