Across the nation, from Wisconsin to Oregon to North Dakota to now Washington state, momentum is building in the long standing battle against racial stereotypes in the form of Native American mascots.
On Wednesday, September 26, the Washington State Board of Education (WSBE) unanimously passed a resolution to end the use of Native American mascots in Washington state’s public schools.
Last spring, Matt Remle, Hunkpapa Lakota, created and circulated a petition to formally ask the WSBE to end the use of Native American mascots in Washington State’s public schools. The signatures were then presented to the WSBE, along with the resolution, by Remle, Rebecca Remle, Paiute, and Michael Vendiola, Swinomish, at a board meeting in late May. After the presentation, board member Bernal Baca stated he would bring the resolution to vote at a future meeting.
The resolution, in addition to calling for the end of use of Native American mascots, calls on districts to close the widening achievement gap between Native American and other students.
“We are in the business of educating students,” Baca said in a statement. “We need to remove any barrier that will impede student success.”
The resolution will now be sent to state school districts urging them to discontinue the use of Native American mascots.
But as board spokesman Aaron Wyatt acknowledged to the Associated Press, the board does not have the authority to mandate this change. So there are no consequences for schools that do not voluntarily choose a new mascot.
In the past decade, 10 Washington state high schools gave up their Indian-named mascots, including Eatonville Middle School, which went from the Warriors to the Eagles, and Eisenhower Middle School in Everett, which went from the Warriors to the Patriots., according to KOMO-TV. But at least 50 more, including some tribal schools, haven’t given up their nicknames, ranging from Redskins, Indians, and Red Devils.
Oregon’s state Board of Education voted in May to ban Native American mascots, nicknames and logos. Schools in that state have five years to comply. Eight Oregon high schools are affected. Wisconsin enacted a similar ban in 2010.
Remle, who runs a Web-based group called Indigenous Action which has worked on various Native issues, including getting Senate Resolution 8664, recognizing the contributions of Indigenous Peoples, passed in Washington state last February, provided ICTMN with a copy of the passed resolution, which is reprinted below.
2012 Native American Mascot Resolution
Jeff Vincent, Chair ? Randy Dorn, Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Bernal Baca ? Amy Bragdon ? Kevin Laverty ? Phyllis Bunker Frank ? Elias Ulmer Bob Hughes ? Dr. Kristina Mayer ? Matthew Spencer ? Cynthia McMullen Mary Jean Ryan ? Tre’ Maxie ? Connie Fletcher ? Judy Jennings Ben Rarick, Executive Director (360) 725-6025 ? TTY (360) 664-3631 ? FAX (360) 586-2357 ? Email: email@example.com ? www.sbe.wa.gov
Encouraging Local School Boards to Review Policies Related to the Use of Native American Mascots or Other Symbols
WHEREAS the State Board of Education reaffirms its commitment to encouraging local districts to remove biased, derogatory, or inflammatory mascots, logos, names, and symbols from their schools, and
WHEREAS numerous Washington State public schools continue to use Native American names, symbols, and images as mascots, nicknames, logos, and or team names, and
WHEREAS in 2005, the American Psychological Association, citing research documenting harm to Native American children, called for the immediate retirement of all Native American mascots, symbols, images, and personalities, and
WHEREAS in 1993, the State Board of Education formally adopted a resolution1 asking school districts to re-examine their policies regarding the use of Native American mascots. Other states have formally banned Native American mascots, including Oregon in 2012, and1 Available at sbe.wa.gov/publications.php
WHEREAS 100 National organizations and tribes have called for the immediate retirement of the use of Native American mascots, including the National Congress of American Indians, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Education Alliance, and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, and
WHEREAS student achievement data reveals that the achievement gap for Native Americans is widening.
WHEREAS the State Board is committed to policies that promote an academic climate where each student feels safe, respected, and ready to learn, and
WHEREAS inflammatory mascots are countercurrent to the Board’s vision for an excellent and equitable education for all students, and
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Washington State Board of Education urges school districts to follow the principles outlined in the 1993 Board Resolution. Local district leaders are encouraged to review and reevaluate mascot policies that may have an adverse affect on Washington students.
For a video on the situation in Washington state, click: