Banks School District Superintendent Bob Huston has become a leader in the fight to keep Native American mascots in Oregon high schools.
Huston is arranging a meeting between himself, the superintendents of 10 other Oregon schools that have Native American mascots, and Reyn Leno, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Like Huston, Leno wants Banks High School to keep its Braves mascot.
Leno will also invite Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Kitzhaber vetoed a bill in August that would have allowed some Oregon high schools to keep their Native American mascots in spite of a statewide ban — if they got approval from their local tribe.
“We want to take some action that might be helpful in changing the governor’s mind,” Huston said. “I respect [Kitzhaber’s] reasoning, but I disagree with it.”
The meeting would allow an open discussion between leaders of the schools affected by the new legislation. All the schools are in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde territory.
“If the governor hears there is a strong desire to keep the mascots, hopefully it will be somewhat persuasive,” said Huston, who met recently with Leno to discuss the issue.
Leno told the News-Times earlier this year he understands the pain caused by negative images and stereotypes of Native Americans, but he doesn’t think erasing a logo is the most effective — or cost-efficient — way to break through such stereotypes.
Those on the other side of the argument often point to the American Psychological Association, which called for the retirement of Native American mascots in 2005 based on a growing collection of reports showing harmful effects that American Indian sports mascots can have on Native American students.
“We don’t see any of that stereotyping here in Banks,” where about 25 Native American students attend classes, said Huston told the News-Times shortly after Kitzhaber’s veto. “We see pride and respect.
“If we say we can no longer use our mascot, isn’t that saying to our kids we’re doing something wrong? I think that would be very damaging,” Huston said. “Some might say we are but I don’t think so because we don’t see any disrespect.”
The partnership between school leaders and tribal leaders will focus on continuing education of Native American culture, Huston said. “They’ve developed a marvelous curriculum. We haven’t used it yet, and how sad.”
The Confederated Tribes have developed a free educational program that traces tribal history “from time immemorial” to the present, including the tribes’ removal to reservations in 1855, Leno said.
Willamina School District implemented the curriculum this year.
In addition to teaching about tribal government and sovereignty, the curriculum touches on native languages, traditional hunting and gathering, arts and crafts, and would involve field trips to the Grand Ronde reservation for Native American dancing, drumming and storytelling.
And it’s all free.
The Banks School Board would have to approve the curriculum, but to Huston, it “seems like a no-brainer to go that route.”