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Banks arrives at agreement with tribes to keep Braves

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - (Left to right) Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde tribal council members Tonya Gleason-Shepek and Reyn Leno stood outside the Banks School District offices with their Braves welcome gift baskets Wednesday, June 15. Banks School Board members voted to adopt an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde (CTGR) at a special meeting Wednesday evening, June 15, which will allow the schools to continue using the Braves as a mascot.

That means field trips to the CTGR reservation, lively dance and music in the classroom, and discussions about Native American culture for Banks students — and the retention of the town’s beloved mascot, which has adorned the schools for the last 85 years.

The debate about Native American mascots has been raging the last several years, but the Oregon Board of Education ruled earlier this year that Oregon high schools could continue to use such mascots if their local tribe agreed.

While some school districts have been busy painting over logos and deciding on new mascots, Banks School District leaders have been busy discussing the details of their new partnership with CTGR leaders.

At last week's meeting, Banks Superintendent Jeff Leo stood to thank tribal representatives for their open mind about continuing the use of the Braves mascot. “We could be having a much different conversation tonight without the tribe’s cooperation,” he said.

“I’m glad and pleased this has gone with so little strife,” Banks resident Don Ediger said at the meeting. “These tend to be hot button issues.”

“The overall goal of this agreement is to foster a positive relationship between the Tribe and the District, and to agree on a culturally appropriate way to use and portray the District’s mascot,” the agreement reads.

“Education is first and we need to educate Oregonians on Oregon’s tribes,” said CTGR Tribal Council Chair Reyn Leno as he addressed the crowd at the beginning of the meeting.

As part of the agreement, the school district will replace the current Braves logo — the head of a Native American man adorned with feathers and face paint — with a “culturally appropriate” mascot, but can still use the name and a logo that is a capital B with feathers on it. The CTGR graphic designers are currently working on sample images for a new mascot.

The school district will include the CTGR’s curriculum about the tribe’s history and culture into classes, implementing the fourth-grade curriculum first, which is complete and ready to go. The fourth-grade teachers have looked through the curriculum already, Leo said, and are prepping for next school year. The curriculum includes the tribe’s history, information on their governmental structure, Federal Indian Policy and cultural traditions.

Banks students will also have the opportunity to visit the Grand Ronde reservation and members of the tribe’s cultural and education departments have offered to make visits to the Banks schools for cultural presentations. The history will focus on the Tualatin Kalapuya tribes, whose traditional homelands include what is now the city of Banks.

The school district will also sponsor a Native Club for all students who are interested in learning more about Native American culture and history. The agreement also emphasizes sportsmanship at sporting events and respect to the Banks mascot.

The Oregon State Board of Education still has to approve the agreement.

“I think this is wonderful. They have been great to us,” said Banks resident Raymond Mott, speaking of the agreement and the CTGR. The current Native American curriculum is 'really limited.'"

“I think the learning that will come from this will be great,” said Banks resident and Banks High School alumnus Bill Schlegel. “I think it’s a win-win.”