"We are committed to having a good relationship with the Grand Ronde Tribe, regardless of the statewide and national debate." Tony Mann
In the fight to keep Molalla High School the home of the Indians, Superintendent Tony Mann said he will continue school district efforts to forge a strong relationship with the leaders of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which includes descendents of the Molalla tribe
We desire to have a relationship with the tribe not just for the sake of the mascot debate, but because Molalla is one of the five banded tribes, and it is appropriate to forge a relationship with the tribe for historical and educational reasons, he said.
Mann noted that it was the Molalla Indians from whom the town and the nearby river received their names.
Molalla is explicitly a namesake of the tribe, he said. Molalla is the only one of the five tribes which has the town and its schools as a specific namesake. Whats important for the community to know is that the Molalla River School District has reached out to the tribe to build a good relationship early and genuinely.
And it is the towns determination to save the mascot, a part of the Molalla High School heritage for the past 100 years, which encourages Mann to build that relationship between the school district and the tribe.
As this mascot debate continues across the state and country, I dont know where that debate will end, Mann said. What I do know is Molalla is a proud community, and the pride in traditions and history of this area is what connects this proud community to its school district. So having opened the door on a relationship with the Grand Ronde Tribe last year, we are committed to be part of that discussion at a larger statewide level.
Last summer, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 215, a bill that would have allowed schools to keep their Native American mascots if they enter into a written agreement with the federally recognized Native American tribe in Oregon located closest to the school district with respect to name, symbol or image of mascot associated with a Native American tribe, expected behavior of students and spectators at athletic events with respect to the mascot, and training on cultural diversity that athletic directors or other persons identified by school board are required to complete.
name, symbol or image of mascot associated with a Native American tribe, expected behavior of students and spectators at athletic events with respect to the mascot, and training on cultural diversity that athletic directors or other persons identified by school board are required to complete.
The bill was vetoed in August by Gov. Kitzhaber, who said the exception would have been too broad.
Mann, however, said that if there is an attempt to reintroduce SB215 next year and reopen the door for local discussion regarding mascots and a relationship with tribal leaders, then we are ready to continue that conversation.
Mann is encouraged by the opinions of Grand Ronde tribal leader Reyn Leno, who wrote in an opinion piece for the Forest Grove Leader last spring that Oregon schools should teach the history of local tribes and be allowed to keep their Native mascots.
Leno wrote: Rather than hand down an unfunded mandate on mascots, the state Board of Education should work toward the reduction or elimination of racism toward Oregon's Native peoples and include Oregon's tribes in its history books.
The history of Oregon tribes, he said, has been either ignored or only briefly mentioned in Oregon schools.
What a shame that most Oregon students learn more about the Sioux and Apaches than they do about the Umpqua, Molalla, Rogue River, Kalapuya or Chasta, he wrote. If more Oregonians were educated about tribal history, society and culture, it would do much more to solve the problems attributed to Native mascots than simply outlawing the practice.
Leno said the Grand Ronde tribes have asked for a mascot solution that allows schools to keep their Native mascots if they collaborate with a representative tribe on positive portrayals or integrated cultural studies to combat negative stereotypes.
For Mann, it is that positive portrayal of the Molalla Tribe that the Molalla River School District is working to incorporate into history lessons in Molalla schools.
Ideally, I think that is a powerful message, to respectfully portray, he said. Thats important, and we hear it from the leaders of the Grand Ronde tribe. Its that respectful portrayal of the mascot and respectful portrayal of the reality of the Native American experience in this geographic area that is important. In my mind, that respectful portrayal will broaden the pride of the Molalla community.
With that in mind, board members Craig Loughridge, Ralph Gierke and Linda Eskridge paid a visit with Mann to the Grand Ronde Tribal Council on May 17, 2012, meeting with Tribal Education Manager April Campbell and Tribal Council members Steven Bobb and Toby McClary. Mann said the district representatives and tribal leaders were open to an exchange of ideas on history and the impact of the white settlers on the Molalla tribe.
That history is important, and the tribal leaders shared that history with us, he said. These folks were representatives of the tribal council. At the end of the day, it was about relationship, knowing the mascot issue was under way, and having a relationship with the tribes namesake, Molalla. We will be Molalla River School District, regardless of the mascot. And connection with one of the five banded tribes of the Grand Ronde is important. And it wont change. This is still Molalla, even if we are forced to change our mascot. We are still Molalla.
Bobb, a member of the Tribal Council who is related to a Molalla family with students at Molalla High School, said at the time that the tribe would be OK with schools that use Native American images to not only represent their institutions, but also to represent their strength and their pride and hold their mascots in a very high regard.
The grand Ronde Tribe received funding to draw up a pilot curriculum for 2013-14 school year, Mann said, that is place specific, meaning tied to the experience of the indigenous tribes in this geographical location of Oregon, in particular.
We expressed our interest in using that same curriculum, he said. But its important that we in our curriculum represent the Native American experience accurately. That partnership with Grand Ronde will ensure that we continue to do that.
Mann has invited the tribal council to the district to continue the conversation, but has not yet been able to coordinate a meeting.
We are committed to having a good relationship with the Grand Ronde Tribe, regardless of the statewide and national debate, he said. But Ill be glad to participate in any conversation on the topic of mascots. The fact of the matter is, mascots are important, and our Molalla High School mascot is one that clearly has a great deal of pride associated with it for everyone in the community and school.