Two Douglas County school districts have made provisions to drop their Native American mascots following a decision made by the Oregon Board of Education.
The OBE approved an amendment last January that allowed state public schools to keep their Native American mascots upon entering into an agreement with an Oregon federally recognized Native American Tribe by July 1, 2017. After that date, the use of any Native American mascots by public schools is prohibited.
At its November meeting, the Reedsport Community Charter School Board of Education approved the recommendations made by the school district’s Native American Name and Image Committee.
After the committee researched the facts, it recommended changing the charter school mascot from “Braves” to “Brave” and to eliminate Native American imagery from representing the school. Collectively, the school will be known as the “Reedsport Brave,” referring to behaving bravely.
“There are a lot of people who are brave, like firefighters and police and sometimes even each individual and the things that they go through in life,” said RCCS office manager Sheri Wall.
While the phrasing is similar, the presentation and message are different. The committee also believed the consistency in phrasing from “Braves” to “Brave” will assist in maintaining a unified school history and future. The committee received support for this decision from students and at public forums.
“It’s not totally stripping us of everything prior to this,” Wall said. “I’m glad that we at least get to keep the ‘Brave.’”
Indian head imagery must now be removed from the school campus and letterheads and the letter “s” must also be removed from the word “Braves” on campus fields.
The committee has not made a decision regarding branding, imagery and logo at this time. In the future it anticipates recommending simple imagery like a star or a flag that is linked to the theme of being “Brave” and does not refer to any one group or single-entity.
The North Douglas School District in Drain made a similar decision about its mascot of the “Warriors.”
“‘Willie the Warrior’ is being retired at the end of this school year,” said North Douglas School District Superintendent John Lahley. “North Douglas schools have chosen to remain the ‘Warriors’ with no mascot.”
The financial impact of this decision reflects removing Native American images found in places like letterheads, gym floors, uniforms and sporting fields.
“Until June 30 we are allowed to maintain all of our imagery of mascots,” Lahley said. The school district is currently working on removing any Native American imagery from the school district by that date.
The school board may make a decision about another mascot in the future, but for now the school will be known as the “North Douglas Warriors.”
The third school district in Douglas County with a Native American name is Roseburg Public Schools. This district has been working with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians to retain the team name of the “Indians” at Roseburg High School.
“We are still in the process of negotiating our agreement,” said RPS Superintendent Gerry Washburn.
The two entities are currently finalizing minor details in the contract agreement. The two have already agreed on several major items.
The school adopted the mascot of the feather years ago and will retain that imagery, so the caricature piece is no longer an issue, but the team name of “Indians” still is.
“It’s more about the word itself and making sure that it’s used respectfully and that we meet all the requirements that the state board has set for us to be able to do that,” Washburn said.
He added the school district has enjoyed a good working relationship with the Cow Creek Tribe and plans to continue working to keep that relationship in place.
“We have some language that we are working on, but we anticipate getting it done in the next month or so, and then being able to move forward,” Washburn said.