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Mascot bill seen as chance for dialogue

Lobbyist says bill should prompt discussion about cultural sensitivity


by: FILE PHOTO - Although Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said he has heard no complaints from the community about the Scappoose Indians Mascot, Justin Martin, tribal member and lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, said he will work to tweak mascots that dont properly represent the tribes historically tied to the region in which the logos are being used. Native American officials are saying they see an opportunity to educate communities with schools that use native images for mascots, such as the Scappoose Indians, about tribal culture.

The comments are in response to the Legislature’s passage of recent legislation that would allow schools with Native American mascots to continue the use of their logos and names.

SB 215 permits schools with Native American mascots to enter into agreements with federally recognized tribes for the use of culturally appropriate mascots.

To that end, Justin Martin, tribal member and lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, said he sees the bill’s passage as an opportunity to educate communities on the importance of tribal history.

Martin said he and the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde will work with school districts to tweak the design of Native American school mascots if they do not accurately portray the tribes with ancestral ties to the area in question.

“I think the value is twofold,” Martin said. “One, it keeps the Board of Education’s rule in place, and two, it allows us that opportunity to start discussions and dialogues about what makes sense to everyone. We think it’s an exciting opportunity.”

The bill passed in response to the Oregon Board of Education’s decision to ban the use of Native American mascots in the state’s schools by 2017. Schools that did not comply would risk losing all or part of state funding to the school district.

The two federally recognized tribes with ancestral ties to Scappoose are the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz.

Many tribal members believe proper education within schools about Native American history is a key objective that can be addressed in tandem with the mascot issue, Martin said.

“What is the value of knowing that heritage?” he asked. “How can we educate non-tribal and tribal kids as to the cultural importance of tribes?”

Under SB 215, schools that retain their Native American mascots will also be required to undergo cultural sensitivity training. “The bill requires the training of athletic directors and administrators in the gym and around any sporting event,” Martin said.

The bill passed 41-19 in the House and 25-5 in the Senate. Although both votes have presumably veto-proof margins, Gov. Kitzhaber said he plans to veto the bill for having terms that are too general.