The Roseburg High School mascot transition committee decided by consensus Tuesday that they would propose a survey to gauge local public opinion on whether the RHS mascot should be changed.
The committee will present survey options and additional information to the full school board Feb. 10. The subcommittee envisioned a survey that would include the opportunity for online and mailed responses.
The RHS mascot, the Indians, like Native American-themed mascots around the state and country, has been a subject of controversy for several years. Critics said it perpetuates racist stereotypes that are especially hurtful to Native American students.
The school district in 2017 signed an agreement with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians. The state required the agreement in order for the school to keep its mascot. While the name remained, the logo was changed to a feather.
The board began reconsidering the mascot in 2020, after Roseburg High School alumnus and enrolled Klamath Tribe member Jessica Bascom started a petition urging the mascot be retired. The petition has received more than 5,400 signatures.
Subcommittee Chairperson Micki Hall said a lot has changed since 2017.
“Things have changed because we’ve been self-reflective because of incidents that have happened in the country, you know nationally, and we’re able to see the power imbalances a little bit differently than we have,” she said.
She said many high schools, colleges and even professional sports teams have changed their mascots in the years since 2017.
“It should give us a different take on the conversation than maybe the board had back in 2014 or 2017,” she said.
Committee member Howard Johnson said he wanted simple survey questions that didn’t push respondents to answer in a particular direction.
He said the survey should ask whether the person taking the survey wanted the mascot retired or not, and why they felt the way they did.
“I want to feel that when all was said and done this was a community effort, and that we had our differences but yet we came to a compromise and made a decision on it,” he said.
Committee member Rod Cotton said he wants the process to move quickly.
“It’s pretty simple. Are we going to retire the mascot, or not?” he said.
If the decision is to retire the mascot, then it should be retired immediately, he said. He cited the example of the former Washington Redskins, now simply known as Washington Football Team, and said RHS could do essentially the same thing until a new mascot is selected.
Cotton said it’s a big decision that affects a lot of people, but urged civility. He said whatever the decision some people will be happy and others unhappy.
“I just ask that people have grace with us and not personally attack us, because that does not help anybody’s cause,” he said.
Johnson noted that no matter what public opinion — or the school board — says, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians ultimately has the say through its agreement with the district.
“If they say no tomorrow, there’s nothing we can do about it. If they say Indian’s got to go, the survey won’t matter,” he said.