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Mascot change being handled well by school

Changes loom for the 'Indians'
by: Self-portrait Sports Editor John Brewington

When the issue of the Scappoose High mascot name came up a few years ago, there was a lot of resistance locally to changing. There was some discussion, but the state school superintendent eventually dropped the issue and very little happened.

The issue is back again and it looks like this time there will be a change.

Officially, no edicts have come down from on high, but it's apparent there is going to be change. A rough draft of what is being proposed has been sent and it appears fairly certain that Indians is one name that won't be allowed. There are other names with more than one perception that may be allowed, such as warriors. No mention has been made of tribe, which of course has connotations wider than just Native American tribes.

Thus far, I like the dispassionate way the high school is handling the issue. There hasn't been much hand wringing and valid concern about associated costs, such as uniforms and repainting the gym floor.

Meetings are being slated to discuss the issue, and we understand one class at the school had a debate. The students each took a side to present their case, and then they switched to present the case from the other side. That seems like a really healthy way to address the issue.

Scappoose High has changed in the last few years, adopting a more respectful mascot than had been presented previously. The tone is much better, but the real truth is that there are few if any Native Americans attending the school. The only connection is the name of the school and city, Scappoose, comes originally from native dialect. However, even the meaning of the word Scappoose can't be confirmed.

I was talking with a former longtime coach at Scappoose last week. He'd originally taught at what's now the Scappoose Middle School, back when it was the high school. He started in 1959. He thought the school had been built around 1933 and that it probably was at that time when the mascot was adopted. That would make it the name for the past 79 years.

Anyone who understands those times knows how racially charged they were. The adoption of 'Indians' as a mascot made sense to those at the time. However, at the same time there was a Ku Klux Klan in Columbia County, sunset laws, and basically a whites-only attitude. That attitude slowly changed and at least is no longer publicly prominent. I'm sure there are still those that think that way, but it's not out in the open.

It appears to me that the school district is carefully weighing their options and will make a well-considered decision.

Early reports suggest the state is going to request a change in name soon, but may give schools up to five years to divest themselves of associated items.

There's a certain sadness about the loss of a tradition, but I think it comes more from the older generation that went to school here. I'm not really hearing much from the kids.

Those that compete athletically will still have pride in going to Scappoose, and being an 'Indian.' They can always say, 'Remember when…'

The truth for most of us is that the mascot is not as important as it might seem. Tradition is important, but it can take different forms. I really run into few people that mention their mascot when you ask them what school they attended.

Colleges are a different story. There is a definite pride in being an Oregon Duck, or an Oregon State Beaver, or even a Washington Husky. Most colleges got rid of the racially tainted nicknames long ago. The Stanford Indians became the Stanford Cardinal and their mascot is a tree. I know, but Stanford has always been a little different.

Scappoose will have to change and it's not necessarily a bad thing. I like the way the district, teachers, and students are approaching the subject. It's a learning experience for all and that's just what school and athletics are all about.