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Community divided on mascot; district's compliance in teaching curricula unclear

COURTESY PHOTO: SCAPPOOSE HIGH SCHOOL - After Scappoose High School jettisoned its Indian chief mascot years ago, the school switched to a stone-tipped spear adorned with a feather.A month ago, Scappoose High School students and local residents renewed the call to dump the high school's Indian mascot.

More than 2,180 people signed a petition calling on the Scappoose School Board to change the mascot.

Now, those in support of keeping the mascot have chimed in.

Scappoose resident Shelly Mahar created a different petition two weeks ago, asking the school board to retain the Indian mascot as "a symbol of strength, pride and respect for generations of proud Scappoose High School Alumni."

That petition had 1,065 signatures by the end of Tuesday, July 21.

"Now people want to cancel culture the history (of) our little town and remove our school mascot, one that has given generations of Scappoose High School graduates great pride, The Indians," Mahar wrote.

Alumni signed both petitions, some calling the mascot racist and embarrassing, others calling it a symbol of pride and strength.

"I always thought if a school chose a certain symbol as their mascot it meant they thought it was a strong powerful symbol. A winner," wrote Lisa Wight, who signed the petition to keep the mascot.

Rebecca Bozart said no one advocating for the change had offered a plan for funding the switch and that changing the mascot would be a "frivolous expense that does not need to be undertaken at this financially critical time."

   "This continues to be debated every few years," Bozart wrote. "I believe if they change the mascot it will just be something else that will need to be changed… All of these changes cost time and money."

The school's mascot was widely debated in 2016, when the school district worked with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde to come to an agreement that would allow the district to keep the mascot.

In 2012, the Oregon Department of Education scheduled a ban of all Native American mascots or imagery, but in 2016 approved a resolution allowing districts to keep such mascots if they reached use agreements by 2017 with one of the Oregon tribes.

There are nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon; the district reached an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

Maintaining the Indians mascot helps Native Americans retain their identity as a people, Jon George, tribal council secretary for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, said in 2016.

The mascot image had previously been an image of a man wearing a feathered warbonnet headdress, which were not worn by native peoples in the Scappoose area. The image changed to an arrowhead-tipped spear adorned with a feather.

The school district agreed to begin using a native history curriculum developed by the tribe by fall 2017. Mercedes Jones, curriculum specialist for the tribe, said the fourth-grade curriculum was available starting in 2014, the eighth-grade curriculum became available in 2016, and the second-, sixth- and 10th-grade curricula were made available last year.

But some teachers and students said they hadn't seen those curricula implemented in the district.

A spokesperson for the Grand Ronde tribes declined earlier this month to discuss the district's compliance.

The agreement also required the district to create a "native club" for students in grades six through 12 and "treat the club in the same manner as all school clubs and organizations."

However, a list of clubs at Scappoose High School in 2019-20 did not include a native club among more than 20 groups.

Scappoose School District Superintendent Tim Porter did not respond to questions concerning the district's compliance with the agreement, other than to say that he would not be able to answer questions by press time. The Spotlight sent questions to Porter two weeks prior and followed up multiple times.

None of the Scappoose school principals contacted by the Spotlight answered questions about the presence of native history curriculum in their schools.

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