Oregon Bans Native American Mascots in Schools

Will other states follow?
May 18, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

On May 17, the Oregon Board of Education banned the use of Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots. As a result, eight high schools across Oregon will have to retire their chosen mascot. That means schools will say so long to names like Redskins, Savages, Indians, Chiefs and Braves.

The Board had received over 700 pieces of written testimony that helped in their decision and ultimately, they decided they needed to protect their Native American students. Board member Serilda Summers-McGee says that's why she was swayed to vote for the ban.

"The concept of Native American mascots being hurtful and racist was not new to me," she said, "however the testimony we received from students, members of the Native American community, and researchers regarding the impact of Native American mascots on student learning and self-esteem was extremely illuminating."

Controversy over the use of Native American mascots has been around for quite some time, but Oregon and Wisconsin are the only two states that have put restrictions in place. At the collegiate level, the NCAA has rules against mascots "deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans."

Oregon schools have until 2017 to make the switch, and if they don't, they'll risk losing funds. The bottom line, State Board Chair Brenda Frank, a member of the Klamath Tribes, says is, "It is all about the students and them feeling comfortable in their schools and communities."

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