Back when the state Board of Education first announced a ban on the use of Indian logos or mascots, there was a flurry of letters to the Opinion Page.
With maybe only one exception, the letters reflected anger and shallow thinking. From youngsters, “I’m proud to be a Roseburg Indian,” to oldsters, “We’ve been the Indians for many decades, so why change now?” No one seemed to understand the underlying reason for the ban.
I was incredulous at their lack of awareness. The American Indian has been so maligned, stereotyped and mistreated during our country’s history, it’s become a matter of national shame.
I wrote a letter to The News-Review suggesting that the state board might consider allowing offending high schools to keep their “Indian” names (thus avoiding the expense of changing names, uniforms, etc.) if we agreed to institute a Native American Awareness Week, in which students would be introduced to the history of our interactions with the Indians, the differences between tribes and their cultural and spiritual beliefs. The fact that local people who wrote into The N-R were so seemingly clueless made me think that such consciousness-raising was necessary.
I received nary a response to my letter. Two weeks ago I proffered a similar suggestion to Gov. Kitzhaber. Again, no response.
To impose a ban on Indian mascots without educating our students is pure lunacy. It would only increase the anger.
Recently, my Salvadoran friend, Reina, was helping me straighten a picture of a Cheyenne Indian. She said, “There were so many different tribes, and they didn’t all believe the same things.” I said, “Well, that puts you ahead of about 75 percent of the American people!” She knew this because she and her husband had acquired U.S. citizenship after spending a year of study before taking the required test.
I love the new logo for Roseburg High School — a feather. But I showed Reina a plaque my son had received from RHS in 1981 for being “Most Talented.” On it was the old logo — a stumpy, comical, huged-nosed guy wielding a tomahawk. I asked her what she thought about it. She said, “It shows no respect. It makes fun of him.”
That’s the way Indian mascots have been depicted for decades by sports teams.
Hey, maybe like Reina and her husband, we should all be required to take a citizenship-literacy test every 30 to 40 years!
Judy Lasswell has been an active member of the Roseburg community for 50 years. She is a retired Umpqua Community College instructor. She earned a master’s degree in counseling in 1990. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.