The Associated Press reports that Oregon’s Board of Education on Thursday took has taken up the plea heard in many states around the country to finally do away with offensive American Indian mascots, “joining a longstanding national debate about racial tolerance and school traditions five years after issuing a nonbinding recommendation that schools stop using Native American regalia,” the AP writes.
The AP story reports an incident that drew outrage from many in the state some six years ago. During a halftime show in a recent Oregon high school, a bare-chested American Indian boy was depicted with a target painted on skin. Che Butler, a member of the Siletz Tribe of western Oregon, has since tried to force the Molalla Indians, and 14 other Oregon high schools to stop using American Indian mascots and nicknames.
“We live off honor and respect. We’re taught to respect all human beings and things on Earth, and live in harmony with them,” Butler told the AP. “That’s all I ask of this board and this state, show us the respect, us Native people.”
The board’s proposal has the support of Butler and his family, but not every American Indian in Oregon agrees. Jeff Williams, a fellow member of the Siletz tribe, is a proud supporter of the Philomath Warriors.
“You want to get rid of the Native American mascots, you’re saying Natives are a shameful part of American history,” Williams told the education board.
Jennifer Moody of the Albany Democrat-Herald reports that more than two dozen people who testified Thursday in Salem before the State Board of Education agreed with Williams sentiment, and urged board members to reject a committee’s recommendation to ban the use of all Native American names, mascots and logos by Oregon schools that receive public funding.
The board will hold another meeting on the topic April 19, with no vote expected until May or later. Oregon residents are allowed, and encouraged, to offer their public comment to the board. The board has been researching and discussing the mascot issue for six years, since 2006, when Che Butler, then just a teenager, first brought the ban request to the board.