To End Racism, State Should Mandate Teaching Oregon Tribal History

To End Racism, State Should Mandate Teaching Oregon Tribal History

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, along with representatives from some of the other nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon, does not support the recent Oregon Board of Education decision to ban Native mascots used by some high schools.

As a sovereign nation, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has worked diligently to build positive government-to-government relationships across all levels of government. We have done so on federal, state and local levels, including with our local school districts.

We are proud of the strides that we have made over the years, and are equally proud of the state of Oregon and its efforts to build and maintain these relationships. They benefit citizens in communities throughout Oregon, and bring with them opportunities to increase awareness of Oregon’s unique and diverse sovereign Tribal governments.

We remain convinced that the native mascot issue is best resolved with efforts from Tribal governments working with their local communities. Grand Ronde has worked with our own local school districts to ensure they accurately and respectfully portraying native culture. We have been able to deal with these situations at the local level, with respect and sensitivity to our Tribal students, all students, our Tribal citizens and all citizens within our shared communities.

High school mascots are supposed to be inspirational. High schools do not adopt “losers” or “slugs” as their mascots; they adopt admirable and inspirational figures. The banned names—Indians, Braves and Chiefs—are inspirational Native images and we do not view their use as de facto derogatory.

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, along with other Oregon Tribes, preferred a solution that would allow schools to keep their Native mascots if they collaborated with a representative Tribe on positive portrayals or integrated cultural studies to combat stereotypes.

That being said, we are more disturbed by the state Board of Education’s disregard for our sovereignty and their consistent foot-dragging regarding one of our constant requests—to end racism against Oregon’s Native people, mandate that schools in Oregon teach our history.

The Grand Ronde Tribe has a long-standing request in to the state Department of Education to fund an Indian Education Specialist, as well as mandate that all Oregon schools teach Oregon Tribal history.

There are nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon. The history of our peoples who have lived in Oregon since time immemorial covers the breadth of the state, and is either ignored or briefly mentioned in our schools. Most Oregon students learn more about the Sioux and Apaches than they do about the Umpqua, Rogue River and Kalapuya.

As our Tribe’s vice chairman, Reyn Leno, often asks, “Why are our children going to school and teaching their teachers about our history?”

Rather than handing down an unfunded mandate on mascots, if the state Board of Education truly wants to take a giant step toward reduction or elimination of racism toward Oregon’s Native peoples, then put us in your history books—fund an Indian education specialist and mandate that schools teach the history of the peoples who have lived on this land since long before explorers, fur traders and settlers started arriving in the early 1800s.

The history of Oregon did not start with the arrival of Lewis & Clark. It was occurring for thousands of years before they set foot on our land, and many of those Indians, Braves and Chiefs are worthy of being honored as high school mascots.

Let’s work on something that truly makes a difference for the benefit of Tribes and all Oregonians. Let’s take a long and serious look at teaching all of Oregon’s students about the history and culture of Oregon’s nine unique sovereign governments.

If more Oregonians were educated about Tribal history, society and culture, it would do much more to solve the problems attributed to Indian mascots than simply outlawing the practice.

Related articles:

Oregon Joins Wisconsin in Banning Native American Mascots

Tribe Disapproves of Oregon Banning Native Mascots

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funnygirl's picture
Submitted by funnygirl on
I don't know everything there is to know about Indian mascots but I have done some thinking about it lately due to another article on the issue. I applaud The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde for some of their efforts to support tribal youth and get their history taught in the classrooms. But I do have a couple questions I wonder about in regard to your efforts and some of the comments in your article. You stated that your tribe's vice chair asked, “Why are our children going to school and teaching their teachers about our history?” I would ask you, how can someone honor you that doesn't know anything about you? How can someone honor you that doesn't believe your history is worth teaching/including? How can someone honor you that doesn't bother to grant your request to have an Indian Education Specialist? How can someone honor you if they can't come up with a respectful and accurate portrayal of you? Your tribe seems to think whites using an Indian as a mascot is an honor but why do you only get that honor instead of honors that actually mean something like the Indian Education Specialist or teaching tribal history rather than some logo posted somewhere or at a half time show for the entertainment of others? It is easy for me to see that they don't really honor you....they use you for a mascot and brush off real concerns that might actually honor you. The worst part is....YOU LET THEM!You not only let them, you help them. That is amazing. Another question for you....have you ever thought of the Indian students that attend the other schools that are rivals/opponents of those schools that have mascots such as the braves, indians, chiefs or whatever? Rival mascots are degraded and made fun of....that is the nature of mascots and rivalries! So what about the kid that has to look at the signs in his school because some tribe like you has decided they are ok and honor Indians if done respectfully. I can only imagine signs in the rival school like..."scalp the chief" and other hurtful slaughter the Indian. I have seen this kind of thing/slogans done with rival mascots at schools I have attended that had nothing to do with Indians but what if it were. What about the Indian child going to school at a rival school. Those rivals don't honor the Indian mascot. That's not what rival schools do and that's not the nature of mascots. How is that ok? Maybe you need to think about the total consequences of your decisions and actions on ALL tribal children. Have you even thought about that or maybe you don't assume any responsibility for that Indian child and their wellbeing and being able to go to their school without being humiliated and hurt. How irresponsible! You are supposed to be thinking about the seventh generation and you can even think about the child in the next school over. I hope you will take the time to address my questions since you have taken time to help white people portray Indians for their own purposes. It would seem to me that you contribute to the difficulty that some Indians are having trying to get rid of these mascots because you support the use of them and see them as an honor. How about honoring another Indian and supporting them if they are hurt by mascots? You are doing damage to other can you justify that?