Approximately 30 people gathered in front of Roseburg High School on Wednesday afternoon in a protest to retire the mascot, which was a topic of discussion at the school board meeting later that evening.

“I’m Karuk, not a mascot,” “Honor by listening,” “There’s no honor in racism,” and “Alumni for change” were just a few of the signs people displayed outside, as supporters burned sage and listened to music.

Jessica Bascom, a member of the Klamath Tribe who graduated from Roseburg High School in 2002, started an online petition to change the mascot this summer and helped organize Wednesday’s protest.

“The sun is shining, my friends and family are here. I can feel the Creator’s strength,” she said at the protest.

Once inside, her positivity turned into criticism for the Roseburg Public Schools’ board of directors which did not make a decision on the mascot.

“My petition currently has 6,826 signatures. Apparently hearing from me and my 6,825 friends and allies was not enough to convince you that you needed to retire your Indian mascot,” Bascom said. “You, instead decided to create an online form for people to submit to you how they feel about the mascot. Many white Roseburg residents have been vocal about wanting to keep the Indian mascot. They spent their afternoons in the abandoned Kmart parking lot this last week claiming an identity and a heritage that is not theirs to claim.”

Jennifer Singleton was one of the people who spent time gathering support to keep the mascot. She said she spent 27 hours in the Kmart parking lot and received signatures from 729 people in support of the current mascot.

“Our children that attend your school are eighth-generation Roseburg residents,” Singleton said at Wednesday’s meeting. “Don’t tell me my kids don’t matter. They do. We are a family and we are proud members of this community. I stand up here for my family today because we are proud to be Roseburg Indians.”

Bascom called statements such as those cultural appropriations. Many of the students who are attending the school are not indigenous, Indians, or members of an actual tribe, even though some have referred to their school, class or team as “The Tribe.”

Roseburg Public Schools made an online form available to the community between Feb. 15 and 22, during that same period people were also invited to write to the district office. The school district received feedback from more than 2,100 people regarding the possible retirement of the high school mascot — more than 1,480 responses were received through the online form and an additional 680 letters were received.

Partially because of the large number of responses, school board members decided that more time is needed to go through the responses before making a decision. The next meeting is scheduled for March 17.

Board chair Rebecca Larson started the meeting by thanking people for their responses. Superintendent Jared Cordon said later in the meeting that he was honored to live in a community that cared deeply about its schools.

Chriset Palenshus, a Roseburg resident who has been a vocal advocate of getting rid of the mascot, expressed her displeasure with the board that there would be no vote on the mascot Wednesday.

“I believe the fact that those of us that still exist here, and are asking you not to use the mascot, our voices should have higher relevance than settlers who came here and took the land, and forcibly removed the people that were already here,” Palenshus said. “There’s some entitlement with white settlers here. They believe that they can just take, take and extract. Taking the land, taking the name and not having any respect for the wishes of those that are from here.”

She ended her speech by giving them one last suggestion, “You could keep the RHS and have it be more accurate by calling it Racist High School.”

School board member Micki Hall said: “For anyone who has read through all the comments will probably first surmise that this is an issue for which the board is in a position much like the old adage, ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t.’ However, after reading the research and reading the comments and letters, and living through this issue for 30-plus years, this is not difficult for me as a school board member that makes education decisions that affect all stakeholders, no matter what the issue.”

Hall went on to describe the issues with racism, discrimination and harm she witnessed in her years of teaching at Roseburg High School, before giving her opinion on the matter.

“Retiring the mascot will not end that struggle,” she said. “In the midst of that struggle, however, this is what I would like to share: This is not about the mascot being offensive. This is not about a woke crowd pushing the issue. This is not about political correctness. This is not about a board, made up of 42% of their members that have never taken this issue up, unwilling to listen or to act. This is not about erasing one’s history, or erasing the history of the RHS Indian or preventing students who matriculated under the Indian mascot from using it, or eradicating Indians or about one person starting this issue all over again.

“It is about aligning our curriculum, our practices and our values with the district-wide strategic plan. It is about compatibility with the all students belong policy our board of directors has envisioned. It is about changing to meet a world in which all students are respectfully and equitably taught. It is about finding ways to meet the needs of all communities within our district. And it is about listening, learning and reflecting on our decisions we make in our classrooms, in our buildings and in our board rooms and doing it respectfully. With the retiring of the mascot, we may not try to change people’s minds and opinions about what they think is racist or discriminatory. That’s not our charge as board members. Our charge is to adopt policies and processes that educate our youth to be lifelong learners, self-reflective adults, and contributing members of any community. And in doing so, we must asked how every action we take reflects our plan to do just that. Educate our children, equitably and justly.”

She added there’s “more than ample evidence” to confirm that mascots contribute to harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about Native American cultures and practices.

In total there were 10 people who addressed the school board about the mascot, with eight speaking in favor of retiring the mascot and two in favor of keeping the mascot.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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(15) comments

P&Z

I am of native Indian descent and have a beautiful heritage of which I am proud. The title 'Roseburg Indians' has always suggested there are native Indians in this area and guess what! TA DA! While attending Roseburg schools I was taught more about the Indian culture of this area as well as surrounding areas. If one is ashamed of their Native Indian heritage maybe it is best we take down the 'Indian' title of which so much endearing & positive conversation has been about rather than the negative. Seems some have too much time on their hands.

Willie Stroker

"Many WHITE Roseburg residents have been vocal about wanting to keep the Indian mascot."

By the looks of the crowd it's also "white" Roseburg residents that want to get rid of the mascot too.

My question is where does this end? What is racist about the mascot? Local Indian tribes have already approved of the name and mascot in the past.

But white liberals want to change that. If we are getting rid of the Indian mascot and name then why don’t we get rid of Seven Feathers?

Why don’t we change the name of the town of Tillamook? Let's get rid of Tillamook cheese!

The school mascot was named to honor the local tribes. But instead we're going to get rid of the Indian and then keep their land? I seem to recall this happening in the past...

You continue to remove people of color and different cultures from products and then in 20 years you're all going to bitchh about why there isn’t any people of color on products anymore.

It's because you removed them all because they offended you! Retards...

NJ

"But white liberals..." Ah, now here's a response meant only to continue to divide. Doing so creates a "team" competition. Who will win, who will be called losers. Right now it affects politics in every state. And perpetuating it seems more important to some who want to see every issue as Us against Them. It's meaningless in this particular issue. Coincidentally, and ironically, it's based in what's called Tribalism.

P&Z

well said

P&Z

stop with the 'liberal' labels! The majority is sick of it!

Scott Mendelson

I cannot think of a sillier or more baseless source of pride than the name of your high school mascot. If you say you are fiercely proud of the Roseburg Indian mascot, then there is something seriously wrong with you. Be proud of the athletic and academic accomplishments of the young men and women on the high school teams. Who cares about the mascot? If, on the other hand, someone is offended, insulted, or hurt because of the mascot, then get rid of it! Something so trivial and unimportant as a sports mascot should not be a source of pain or embarrassment for anyone. We all have much more important things to concern ourselves with.

CitizenJoe

Scott, The Evergreen State College has a geoduck for a mascot; I think that reflects the proper level of adoration one owes to the mascot of one's alma mater.

Scott Mendelson

They really stuck their necks out with that name!

garyd

[smile][thumbup]

CitizenJoe

Oh, sure. Another anti-clam joke....

(BTW: they are delicious! Pounded out, battered, fried---ermagerd, I just When Harry Met Sally-ed.)

smb

Played soccer for Linfield back in the day, and we had an away game with Evergreen on their campus. Someone ran towards us on the field wearing a human-sized costume of the school's mascot prior to the game and one of my teammates yelled out..."Look! It's a big HOO-HAW!". I laughed so hard I had to hurry up and pee before gametime.

Seriously though, my high school's mascot was changed and they are now South Albany Red Jays, and they stopped using the rebel flag in imagery. My classmates talk about them as the Red Jays in the current tense, and Rebels in the context of when we were there. We were proud of who we were then, and what the school is now. The name and imagery seem less important now than the memories and relationships, but that's me.

Roseburg Reader

So I’m offended, insulted and hurt that someone would even try to remove the beloved mascot. Something so trivial and unimportant as a sports mascot should not be a source of pain to all those wanting to keep it. Keep the mascot. We all have much more important things to concern ourselves with than trying to eliminate it. This argument goes both ways.

Scott Mendelson

No, you are wrong. The pain of having your stubbornness, selfishness and resistance to change challenged is quite different from the pain of having your blood and the blood of your ancestors insulted and diminished by being used as something so trivial and stupid as a sports mascot! This is especially the case when there is an infinite number of neutral non-offensive names that could be used instead. Attachment to a mascot name is a sign of childish, political stubbornness in the same way as refusal to wear a mask. It even seems to be the same group of people. Coincidence?

P&Z

BRAVO! Well said!!!

CitizenJoe

Lede: buried. Board punted.

Paragraph 8:

"Partially because of the large amount of responses, school board members decided that more time is needed to go through the responses before making a decision. The next meeting is scheduled for March 17."

But nice article. Thanks!

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