Jennifer Singleton spent several hours Tuesday in a canopy tent in the old Kmart parking lot collecting signatures and hearing stories from people who want to keep the name Indians as Roseburg High School’s mascot.
Around 3 p.m., she had about 100 letters from people who wanted to keep the mascot.
“Please do not end this longstanding tradition of respect, honor, gratitude, and understanding with our community partners of Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians,” a pre-written letter of support said. “If local historical education of our current and future students is necessary, please educate, and do not eradicate the INDIANS.”
There were pre-written letters available, but some supporters took the time to write additional comments on the back.
Roseburg High School alumnus Sony Provencal started the letter writing campaign to keep the mascot.
“The community wants to keep the identity in relation to our community partners of the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians,” Provencal wrote in an email. “We collectively are a Tribe. They have always supported us and we support them.”
The Singletons live in Glide, but attend school in Roseburg and are proud to call themselves Indians. Nash Singleton, a Roseburg High School junior, signed a letter in support of keeping the mascot.
“We moved in to be Indians,” he said. “Since we were four of five years old we wanted to wrestle for Steve (Lander). The name has to do with who we are as a team. We wrestle for our tribe, we wrestle for the Indians.”
Jeff Traviss, a Roseburg High School alumnus, said, “I grew up with it. The tribe OK’d it. It’s been around for a long time.”
Traviss said he comes from a long line of Roseburg High School graduates.
The mascot came under fire again this summer when Roseburg High School alumnus Jessica Bascom started an online petition to remove the mascot due to its racist nature. That petition has gathered more than 6,000 signatures.
Bascom is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe who also has Creek and Cherokee heritage. She says she does not feel honored by the mascot in her petition.
The school board reached an agreement with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in 2017 to keep the mascot, with an agreement to review the contract every three years.
“There are over 500 federally recognized tribes and I don’t think the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians should have the final say in this important issue,” Bascom wrote in her petition. “Roseburg, you can do better. The time is now.”
Those in support of keeping the mascot thought the discussion had finished when the local tribe signed off on the name, but the school board decided to restart the discussion surrounding a possible retirement of the mascot.
The board of directors for Roseburg Public Schools asked the community to provide feedback on the possibility of retiring the mascot via an online form at www.roseburg.k12.or.us. The board also asked people to list their affiliation with the school, name and email address. People can also send a letter to the school board at 1419 NW Valley View Drive in Roseburg.
Superintendent Jared Cordon said the online feedback form, which opened Monday morning, had seen 212 responses by Monday night and as of 12:41 p.m. Tuesday the number of responses had grown to 339.
The online form and letters must be received by Feb. 22, as the school board will be discussing its results during the Feb. 24 regular meeting.
Singleton said she’s asking people to fill out the school district’s survey, but is also asking people to share their stories through the letter writing effort.
“I just want everyone to be heard,” Jennifer Singleton said. “All voices need to be heard.”
Provencal added that she wants community members, former students, current students and constituents to sign and promise to be positive representatives of Native America with the intent of prolonging the community’s cultural acceptance of the tribe.
“The term ‘Indian’ is federally recognized. There is not any ill disposition with the term, as a community, we have studied, sweat, bled, and cried to earn the title of Roseburg Indians,” Provencal wrote. “We merely want to be able to stand together in a unified community that honor our ancestors.”
Provencal said those in favor of keeping the mascot “see Native America as an identity. We share in the historic struggles and hope to best honor and bridge a continued relationship with our local tribal partners.”
She added that retiring the mascot would be “erasing history, eliminating a community cultural base and sadly the future of our children.”
Those in favor of keeping the mascot can continue to sign letters of support each day this week from noon to 5:30 p.m. in the old Kmart parking lot.
Provencal will be dropping the letters off at the school district before the Feb. 22 deadline.