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Oregon School Districts Work To Keep Native American Mascots Through Tribal Agreements

At least seven Oregon school districts are working to keep their Native American mascots by getting the support of local tribes.

The Roseburg School Board is the latest to approve an agreement with a local tribe. Board members voted Wednesday to keep “Indians” as the Roseburg High School mascot and a feather as the main image. The agreement with the Cow Creek band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians would add curriculum on Native American history and include a tribal representative on the school board’s instruction committee.

That local decision still needs the support of the Oregon State Board of Education.

A state law in 2016 required districts to reach these agreements by the end of June if they want to keep their Native American mascots.

Roseburg's agreement is unlikely to be the first approved by the state board.

Officials with the board of education identified at least six other agreements in process. They involve six different school districts, but just two Oregon tribes — the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians.

State board members expect to vote on an agreement between the Banks School District and the Grand Ronde at their meetings next week. Grand Ronde tribal officials have also worked with the Scappoose School District on an agreement to keep its high school mascot. An official with the board of education said that Scappoose-Grand Ronde agreement should see a vote in the coming weeks.

Four other efforts appear to be in earlier stages, according to officials with Oregon's State Board of Education. The Molalla School District is also working with the Grand Ronde. Three school districts — Philomath, Rogue River and Siletz Valley — are working with the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians on agreements to keep Native American mascots and imagery in those districts.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Rob Manning is a news editor at Oregon Public Broadcasting, with oversight of reporters covering education, healthcare and business. Rob became an editor in 2019, following about 15 years covering schools and universities in Oregon and southwest Washington as OPB’s education reporter.