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The debate can get quite heated when it comes to Native American mascots for sports teams. For years there have been a few sports teams both professional and otherwise that have used Native American mascots without much conversation about the impact on the people the mascot represents. There has been an outcry for these team mascots to be retired. Both sides of the debate have some valid points. The push is on to change the name of sports teams that reflect a reference to Native Americans and to retire the mascots that represent these teams.

The Mohawk Mascot has been an item of discussion for the last 5 years. At a community meeting on Monday, November 28th at Mohawk High School, people came together to discuss problems associated with the existing mascot (Indian) and solutions for changing the mascot. It’s fair to say, everyone left the meeting understanding that a change needs to take place and it needs to happen soon.

The Marcola School District has met with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde for the past two years. We have worked together on developing a Memorandum of Agreement, with an overall goal of fostering a positive relationship between the Tribe and the District and to agree on culturally appropriate ways to use and portray the existing mascot (Indian).

DOWNLOAD MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT

 

Goals Of The Tribe

  1. To build respect and understanding of Tribe’s history and culture
  2. To give all youth the opportunity to learn the Tribe’s curriculum
  3. To foster a culturally respectful representation of Native American Symbolism and pride

Goals Of District

  1. To foster respect and informed understanding of the Tribe and other Native Americans
  2. To adopt a culturally appropriate mascot.

 

It’s important to know that without the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, we would have no chance of keeping even our Indian name. There is still no guarantee we can keep the name even if the MOA is approved by both parties and the Oregon Department of Education. The MOA can be terminated at any time by either party.

It’s also important to know, that our school board members have been very neutral on this topic wanting to do what is in the best interest of both the community and our Native American Friends. They signed the MOA with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, knowing very well it could be terminated at any time. Our school board has been well informed and are very aware of the debates on both sides of the issue.

If you are on the fence about what you think about this topic take a look below at the Pros and Cons discussed at the community meeting on November 28th.

Pros of Keeping the “Indian” Name and Changing the Mascot Image Cons of Keeping the “Indian” Mascot name
Celebration of Diversity: Recognizing Native Americans by naming sports team to reflect that recognition is a good way to recognize the diversity of the country. It is insulting: Many Native American groups do feel that it is insulting and that it is a mockery. The intent may not be to insult anyone, but if the result is that people (in district or out of district) feel uncomfortable with the situation, then clearly that is what matters.
Done with The Intent to Honor: Adopting the Native Mascot is done as a way to honor the culture – much like the Vikings, Saints, Celtics and Irish. The Goal is to emulate highly regarded traits that are associated with Native American Tribes. It Perpetrates Stereotypes. Native Americans do not wear head dresses and carry axes – in fact most were very peaceful. Mascots often promote cultural stereotypes that are hurtful.  Many Native Americans work very hard to break the cultural stereotyping and mascots do not further that effort.
The “Indian” name has been connected with Mohawk High School for generations and generations. Most of the people who grew up and graduated from Mohawk High School are proud to be known as an “Indians” Mascots Marginalize Injustice: Native American people suffered tragic losses through their history. Mascots make light of their culture and the suffering of their people.  It is disrespectful to the culture and it plays down the injustices that Native Americans have suffered. Continues to carry with it – names such as savage and squaw.
The MOA helps keep a strong partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde The MOA to keep the Indian name can be terminated at any time. If it is terminated we will need to once again change everything with the name Indian on it.

In summary, I believe many people left the community meeting with a different understanding of the Mascot issue. I know there are still community members who feel that people are being overly sensitive to the use of an Indian as a mascot. I have to be honest and say that it is not a fair expectation that people who are hurt and upset by the use of a mascot causing an outrage in any cultural group should be ignored. Our intention of using the mascot only comes into play when the results are upsetting people, it’s clear to me the results are upsetting people. We shouldn’t expect Native Americans to accept and tolerate something that is hurtful to their image as a human being. I personally believe the fix is quite simple – change the name and the mascot. I hope the community can come together as a collective group and make a decision without hurt feelings on either side.

Next Steps

  1. Gather feedback from the community regarding two choices.
    1. Keep the Indian(s) name and change the mascot image.
    2. Select new name and mascot image.

Please note that regardless of the choice, Marcola School District must remove all references to the “Indian Head” imagery, this is not up for debate. If the Indian(s) name is kept, it will be subject to review every 5 years under the terms of the MOA. 

Our next community meeting is scheduled for Monday, December 5th at 6:00 pm in the Mohawk MS/HS STEM room (old library). Everyone is welcome to attend and place their vote to either keep the Indian(s) name or to move forward with selecting a new name and mascot.

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