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Molalla Indians are one of 14 schools with Native American names

MOLALLA PIONEER FILE PHOTO - Molalla Indians mascot at the Molalla High School soccer field.As the state Board of Education tries to write rules to regulate tribal mascots, some Oregon schools remain adamant about keeping them, while some tribal advocates are just as vocal in saying they must go.

The board is trying to implement a 2014 law that allows such mascots — including the Molalla Indians — if districts come to agreements with any of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon.

Board members heard a progress report at their meeting Thursday, March 5, in Salem, and are scheduled to adopt rules April 9.

An informal work group attempted to craft a rule, but differences became evident during a two-hour rulemaking hearing last week.

Tony Mann, superintendent of the Molalla River School District, said he has worked with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde on an agreement to retain the name of the Molalla Indians.

“The tribes expect to maintain a mascot that genuinely and respectfully represents the Molalla people, the tribes, and all indigenous peoples in the state,” Mann said. “I humbly ask the board to remain neutral in matters related to this.”

He said the state board’s role should be limited to whether districts simply comply with the procedure outlined in the law.

In a similar way, Banks Superintendent Bob Huston has worked informally with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, meeting with tribal representatives who support the Braves mascot as part of a greater connection between the tribe and the school.

“What I saw coming out of the work group was the necessity of having a relationship — not just a one-time meeting and agreement but an ongoing relationship — with our tribal partners,” said Paul Young, Rogue River schools superintendent.

Larry Parsons, Roseburg schools superintendent, criticized a proposed requirement for districts retaining tribal mascots to map how they would close academic achievement gaps between Native American students and other students. He said such a requirement should apply to all Oregon schools.

Parsons also said it would be impractical for Roseburg to adopt a name of “Roseburg Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians,” the nearest of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes.

But some tribal advocates said it’s time for the 14 schools to follow the lead of The Dalles High School, which adopted the name “Riverhawks” instead of retaining “Indians” as a tribal mascot.

“These mascots undermine the educational experience of all students, particularly those with little or no contact with indigenous or native Alaskan peoples,” said Se-Ah-Dom Edmo, interim president of the Oregon Indian Education Association.

“I think we can still be invested in our teams without mascot names or images associated with them.”

Sam Sachs, a Portland human rights commissioner and an activist for racial justice, said the affected schools should do something similar to what his alma mater South Albany High School did. The school’s mascot is still the Rebels, but there is no Confederate flag — a symbol that blacks take offense to because of the legacy of slavery in the South.

Sachs said if the board proceeds to adopt a rule, it will face a lawsuit from affected student plaintiffs.

“I am done; there is nothing left to say,” he said. “We can list numerous human rights organizations here and throughout the country that say this needs to stop, this needs to end.”

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