In 2012 the State Board of Education voted to ban Indian mascots, imagery and logos in Oregon’s public schools. As a response, Senator Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) introduced SB 215 to essentially reverse that ban.

Twice the bill was amended to narrow the scope of the reversal so that the version that ultimately passed permits a district school board to use a Native American mascot only when it enters into a written agreement with the closest federally recognized Native American tribe in regard to the name and symbol of the mascot, expected behavior of students and spectators at athletic events with respect to the mascot, and any required cultural diversity training required of athletic or other school personnel.

Even with these changes, we opposed SB 215. There are many other opportunities than those mandated in the bill for public schools to do outreach and include members of the Native American community in curriculum and public acknowledgement without having mascots that are so closely connected to the oppression of native people in Oregon.

We understand that there is a long tradition and history of particular schools having Indian mascots, and that these traditions and history have been cited as justification for continuing to permit this practice. But many practices we now recognize as repugnant were once justified on the basis of tradition – including slavery, lynching and school segregation.

We do not believe that the historical mistreatment of Native Americans in Oregon should be cause for pride. In the 19th century, our government actively participated in the forced relocation and extermination of thousands of Native Americans. In the 20th century, many of the remaining tribes were terminated and there was a conscious effort to extinguish Native American cultural traditions and practices by forcing Native American children to leave their homes and attend boarding schools designed to help them “assimilate” into the majority culture.

Thankfully, most Oregonians now recognize that these practices, although they are a significant part of Oregon history, are blemishes on that history and should not be held up as positive examples for our youth today. And yet, that is one of the inevitable effects of allowing stereotypical views of Native Americans to flourish in some communities.

Vote: 24-4-2 Senate; 41-19 House
25-5 Senate concurrence SCORECARD VOTE