New bill takes collaborative approach to Native American mascot question

by: NEWS-TIMES FILE PHOTO - The Braves name and logo may get to stay on the Banks sports facilites and hallways, depending on discussions between school leaders, local tribal leaders and the Oregon Board of Education. Banks School District officials may not have to scratch the beloved Braves mascot off their school surfaces just yet.

Keeping the Braves seems more likely than it has for a while with the Oregon Senate’s unanimous approval of Senate Bill 1509 — and with Gov. John Kitzhaber’s support. The bill still has to pass in the House, but potentially allows for the state’s school districts to enter into an agreement with a federally recognized tribe to use a mascot that is connected with the tribe in some way.

Last Friday, Feb. 14, SB 1509 was referred to the House Education Committee, which will consider it before sending it to the House floor for a vote.

The Oregon Board of Education adopted the statewide ban on Native American mascots in 2012. The bill is similar to one that was passed last year but vetoed by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg), who sponsored the legislation, speculated that the governor vetoed the similar bill last year not necessarily because of its content but because it would have overridden a decision made by the Oregon Board of Education.

“We appreciate the governor’s willingness to allow us to have these conversations,” Kruse said.

This new bill is “not so simple and straightforward,” Kruse said, but the next step is to form a group from the Board of Education to rewrite the rule — “one that makes more sense.”

The main difference with the new bill is that representatives from tribes and school administrators will be involved in the discussion.

“We are hoping to honor the agreements in place between tribes and schools,” Kruse said, in order to reach a decision that’s “mutually agreeable.”

A lot of the specifics would be up to the tribes, Kruse said.

After a new rule is formed and reviewed by the Board of Education, it will be open for public comment and then revisions will potentially be made.

“The process may take longer than people think it should,” said Kruse, who estimated it could take up to a year.

What exactly this means for the Banks Braves is still uncertain, but school administrators have been in contact with representatives from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Banks Superintendent Bob Huston said he likes what he’s hearing about the process required by the new mascot bill.

He’s in favor of a partnership with the Confederated Tribes and beefing up the Native American curriculum in Banks schools. “It makes more sense to emulate the actual tribes that were in our area,” Huston said, rather than just getting rid of the mascots.

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