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Kitzhaber signs mascot bill into law

School districts with Native American mascots, such as Scappoose, must work with local tribes


by: FILE PHOTO - The Scappoose High School Indians Mascot on the wall of the SHS gymnasium. Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said the district may need to make changes to the image to more accurately represent local Native tribes.Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill into law Thursday, March 6, to allow Oregon schools with Native American mascots, such as the Scappoose High School Indians, to potentially keep their mascots if permitted by local tribes.

The bill, Senate Bill 1509, also directs the State Board of Education to grant approval of any conforming agreement made between Oregon school districts and federally recognized tribes for schools to retain their Native-themed mascots.

The bill is in response to a 2012 decision by the State Board of Education to prohibit the use of Native American mascots in Oregon schools by 2017. Now, school districts will be able to work with tribes and the State Board of Education if they wish to retain their mascots before the 2017 cutoff.

JupeAside from the role of the State Board of Education, the bill resembles a Senate bill Kitzhaber vetoed last year, arguing its exceptions to the board’s 2012 decision to ban Native mascots were too broad. Senate Bill 215 would have left the decision solely up to individual districts and tribes to reach agreements over mascot use.

In an earlier interview with the Spotlight, Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said he expects the district can reach an agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, but may have to change elements of the mascot to more accurately reflect local Native American culture and history.

Jupe told the Spotlight Monday, March 10, he plans to work with Banks School District Superintendent Bob Huston to contact the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and draw out a plan to move forward. The Banks High School Braves also require permission to retain their Native-themed mascot.

“The next step is to go and meet with the Grand Ronde tribe and discuss what they are interested in looking at,” Jupe said. “I think we need to get on with it. If we have to make changes, we need to know what changes to make. To a certain extent, the tribes are going to be in the driver’s seat.”

Jupe said he did not know when such a meeting might be scheduled.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has already expressed support of the original bill to involve Native tribes in the process. Justin Martin, tribal member and lobbyist for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, said at the time he would work to educate students attending schools with Native American mascots about the history and culture of local tribes.

“I think the value is twofold,” Martin said of the original bill to involve Native tribes — SB215. “One, it keeps the Board of Education’s rule in place. And two, it allows us that opportunity to start discussions and dialogues about what makes sense to everyone. We think it’s an exciting opportunity.”