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Countdown Continues For Oregon Schools With Indian-Themed Mascots

Tom Banse
Northwest News Network
In this 2016 photo, a 1970s-era statue sits on the front lawn of Warrenton High School in Warrenton, OR. Last year, the school board voted to remove Native American symbolism from its school mascots.

Efforts to end Native American mascots – or keep them, with local tribes’ approval – have left 16 Oregon school districts until July 1 to act. 

Recently, Rogue River High School in Grants Pass worked out a deal with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians.  They can remain the “Chieftains,” if they incorporate more tribal history in its fourth and eighth grade curricula.

Cindy Hunt of the Oregon Department of Education says 12 districts have either had mascots approved, are pending approval, or have dropped or changed them. 

“That leaves four school districts, for which we have heard nothing.  And all four of those districts are “Warriors”.  There’s Oakridge, Lebanon, North Douglas, and Lakeview.” 

Schools with “warriors” can keep the name, just not any Indian imagery. 

Justin Martin, a government liaison with the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, says they’ll gladly work with schools to properly honor – and therefore keep – Indian mascots.

“We'll sit down with the school district, sit down with the community, and go over why this imagery is offensive," says Martin "why we should be teaching our students about specific tribes within their area.” 

If schools don’t comply with the Oregon State Board of Education by July, they stand to lose state funding.

Copyright 2017 KLCC-FM.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. He is a 20-year reporter who has worked at NPR, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including three Edward R. Murrow Awards and the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award in 2012.