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Roseburg High School graduate Jessica Bascom has started a petition asking the school to change its mascot name. Bascom is an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe.

Jessica Bascom

What does it mean to be an Indian? For millions, including myself, it is a racial and cultural identity. There are over 500 federally recognized Indian Tribes in the US. Is it appropriate to use our racial identity as a mascot when most mascots are animals or objects? No. It is dehumanizing. Do you think it would be ok for RHS to be called the Roseburg Mexicans or the Roseburg Asians? If you can understand why both of those names would be problematic, then you can see why the Roseburg Indians is not an appropriate mascot. Representations matter.

Many studies show native mascots negatively affect Native youth. They create a hostile school environment for Native kids and are linked to depression, negative self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts. This is why in 2005 the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all Native mascots by schools and teams, why Oregon restricts the use of native mascots, why Washington has banned native mascots, and why Colorado has proposed a bill that fines schools that use them. Even when native mascots are used with respectful intention they have a negative impact.

Just a few decades ago, Indian kids were forcibly removed from their families and sent away to Indian Boarding schools to assimilate. They didn’t blend in with their white peers but stood out and were seen as a problem. The motto for Indian boarding schools was “kill the Indian, save the man.” In the 1940’s my grandma, an enrolled member of the Klamath Tribe, was taken away from her family at 4 years old here in Oregon. During a time when white kids were pretending to be Indians through the popularization of native mascots across the country, real Indian kids were being punished for actually being Indians.

On Wednesday the Roseburg school board voted on retiring the mascot. Five out of six members voted to retire the mascot. If that vote had happened under their previous metrics the mascot would have been retired. The board revised their policy in 2020 requiring the decision to be unanimous instead of majority. By using a policy that requires a unanimous decision, one man, Charles Lee, was given complete control. He was able to cast a deciding vote on something that affects so many. This is dangerous because he has shown he is incapable of separating his opinion from the reality of proven harm.

This movement isn’t going to stop because one white man wants to discredit scientific studies, doubt personal experience, and ignore the pleas from the group being used. Natives have been fighting for native mascots to be removed for decades. Stanford University recognized the harm to the Native community and changed their Indian mascot back in 1972. I know not all Natives agree on this, and that’s OK. We’re not a monolith. Not all white folks agree on a single issue either. The majority of Natives do not want to be mascots and in response over 1,500 Native organizations have publicly called for this change as the national movement has gained momentum.

There’s no honor in hearing white people claim they’re “Roseburg Indians” because they attended RHS. To claim someone else’s cultural identity as your own is the very definition of cultural appropriation. As my mom, an enrolled member of the Creek Nation, said, “Going to a school with an Indian mascot doesn’t make you an Indian anymore than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”

Hearing opposing teams yell, “Beat the Indians” and “Scalp ‘Em,” is not safe or welcoming in our stands or the stands our athletes participate in outside of Roseburg at sporting events. It creates a hostile environment for Natives. Also, Roseburg students are being put in uncomfortable situations because they are being associated with the racism attached to the Indian name on their uniforms.

The Roseburg athletic director, the RHS principal, and five Roseburg school board members have all said the mascot needs to change. But it remains because of systemic racism, literally represented by a policy in the Roseburg school system preventing the change. Even though there was a vote, the five board members who acknowledged harm are all responsible for ensuring it gets removed or they become complicit in the discrimination and need to update their equity statement.

Also there are currently Native children from various tribes attending RHS that are being subject to this unsafe environment. RHS having an agreement with the Cow Creek Tribe doesn’t negate the fact that harm is being done. If your Black friend gave you permission to use the n word it would still be wrong. Just as one person shouldn’t be able to decide for an entire board, one tribe shouldn’t be able to decide for an entire race.

All of our kids deserve better.

Jessica Bascom is a 2002 Roseburg High School graduate and a member of the Klamath Tribe. She began an online petition to urge a change of mascot at Roseburg High School in the summer of 2020.

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(20) comments

CitizenJoe

Jessica, you are on the right side of history and morality. This setback is only temporary.

You've done great work. I thank you.

I recommended in an earlier comment, and I commend to you, "Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson. It's clear to me that the dominant caste in this county assumes the right to appropriate the identity and even the humanity of a "lower" caste, and reduce it to a mere mascot. It's really hard to imagine a legally permissible degradation of a people that is worse.

Thank you for fighting the caste system.

P&Z

"One person decided for the Majority" ! Move along!

mjnutts

I don’t know why the “Indians” don’t jump on the respect that the RSH gives to them because the have high status with that gift. The glass is half full not empty. Respect the honor.

tdevine

Jessica's opinion was well written and the responses from mworden and others here are thoughtful and show local support that is, probably, really in the majority ... not sure why Douglas county let one vote out of 6 rule in that one dissenting voters favor ... that's not democracy as I know it. Coming from California's Bay Area and growing up spending most of my childhood summers fly-fishing the North Umpqua's famous waters with my father (starting in 1971), tie me to this area as a sportsman, environmentalist, and human being that cares about the people and wildlife that live in Douglas county and call your area home. I say it's high time that all Americans look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves, what is really important here? The only thing constant in life is change; we need to keep looking at and learning from the past to see a better future for us all.

I look forward to my next trip up North to your beautiful wonderland; the fishing is not what it used to be but, maybe we can all help it come back with some insight, educated facts, and action! ... Hopefully, Roseburg HS and Douglas county will gain more insight and empathy for Native Americans and their centuries long struggles to deal with 'white America' ... A lot of people will probably ridicule me for just being born and raised in San Francisco, CA; I don't care; I'm proud of it and always have been; just as proud and lucky to call your area the 'summer home' of my childhood experiences that shaped the person I am today.

Keep up the fight, Jessica and all the rest! More insight, more empathy, more educated facts, and more action! ... change is good; nothing stays the same forever ... how about: "The Roseburg HS Steelheads"! ... that's a mascot that would get some positive attention and maybe educate some folks about salmonids and their decades long demise ... and give some NA's respite ... peace out

Roseburg Reader

The headline here reads "One Person, One Tribe Shouldn't Decide for Everyone". If that is Jessica Bascom's opinion, why does she feel entitled as one person from one tribe to decide for everyone in the Roseburg community? Her opinion in what she doesn't like is exactly what she is doing to others. Gee, can you say "entitled"????

Mike

When you write a letter to the editor or Column in the News-Review, the News-Review editor writes the headline, not the column/letter writer.

Wretched722

I'm American Indian. I live in Douglas County. I like the name Indians and hope it stays.

P&Z

Well said. Same here!

Djsingleton

Charles Lee stood up for our community, his decision was not based on an opinion, it was based on facts. He was doing his job as a school board member and he stood up for our community in a time when he should have. Thank you Charles Lee for all you did for us!

melrosereader

If Charles Lee stood up for the community then the community is full of backward racists.

Djsingleton

Lived in this community all my life and will continue to do so, we are not racist, we are proud of our local tribe and all they have accomplished. We represent them because they want us to.

P&Z

Yes!

NJ

I believe you when you say you're not racist but then, almost subconsciously you say "our local tribe". You make it sound as though we own them. I grew up here too and I know some things like how we automatically say things we learn naturally, passed down to us from past generations. Time passes and generations change but there are some things I too say and have to stop myself. And we don't represent them with a mascot. It's not something they would be involved in at all. The Umpqua tribe has a sovereign nation to govern, an argument over the white mans' mascot isn't what their governing would take up.

CitizenJoe

What NJ said. "Our" local tribe denotes either ownership or membership; if the latter, then, well, fine; but if it's the former (ownership), then that is the heart of the problem: to have a mascot is an assertion of power--and ownership--over that mascot. No human or group of humans ought to be a "mascot" of anyone. I mean: fine if you want to have a geoduck be your mascot, but *not* another human being.

I recommend "Caste" by Isabel Wilkerson.

rev_rend

Really? Because I'm old enough to remember when they opened the casino, then open to 18 year old gamblers, and people here would frequently fret that it was corrupting our youth. I'm also old enough to remember when they paid payroll in $2 bills so that their employees spending money could prove that the tribe was not greedily taking money from the community. I'm also old enough to remember people losing their minds over the idea of the Cow Creek Band buying good real estate because it would deprive the town of tax revenue.

Non-members of the tribe here are most proud of the tribe when it isn't trying to assert itself.

P&Z

Bravo!!!

NJ

Jessica, you're very well spoken. Thank you for writing your opinion.

Scomo

Miss Bascom is a Klamath Indian and as such she should focus on her home territory, K Falls and leave political decisions about Douglas County to it’s Tribe, the Cow Creek Indians who have no problem with the term “Indians” being used as the Roseburg HS moniker. She would probably also object to Roseburg using mascot names such as the Roseburg Indigenous Hunter Gatherers or the Roseburg Pleistocene Immigrants, I prefer the Roseburg Stitching Plutons since large portions of the geology of Douglas Count are the result of the collision of exotic terraces with the North American plate resulting in stitching Plutons. She’s probably nix that one as well. Give it up Bascom and go back to K Falls.

mworden

Jessica, thank you for a well thought out letter. This issue will return. Eventually, the decision will change

Scomo, Jessica is a graduate of Roseburg High School. That makes Roseburg her hometown, not K Falls. Telling people to go back where they came from is an old racist trope. I'm sure you know that. Your words demonstrate Jessica's point for her.

CitizenJoe

mworden: yes, and yes, again.

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