Native American mascots are on their way out at two Oregon schools.
Officials at Grants Pass schools Fort Vannoy Elementary and Fleming Middle School, both in the Three Rivers School District, say there are just too many strings attached to a recent decision by the Oregon Board of Education that allows schools to retain Native American mascots with the approval of local tribes.
The approval process itself is full of red tape, school officials say, plus there is an “out” clause that means tribes could pull approval at any time.
“Then, we’d be right back where we are now,” said Kirk Baumann, principal at Fort Vannoy Elementary School.
Baumann and Fleming Principal Sid Hobgood are working with their site councils to come up with mascots to replace the current mascots: the Fort Vannoy Indians and Fleming Rogues. Community input also is being sought.
The controversy over Native American mascots has been going on nationwide for years. In Oregon, it came to a head in 2012, when the Board of Education told schools to find something else by July 2017 or risk losing state funding.
The Legislature countered with a measure in 2014 that allowed schools to retain their mascots if they gain the approval of the recognized Oregon tribe located closest to their school district.
The Board of Education initially dragged its feet in developing the tribe-approval process, then relented last month amid a potential confrontation with the Legislature over lawmaking authority versus rule-making authority.
Some schools across the state changed their mascots immediately, while others, such as in Rogue River, Fort Vannoy and Fleming, adopted a wait-and-see approach.
Because both schools feed in to North Valley High School, which has the Knights mascot, the new mascots likely will be similarly themed, according to Baumann.
Current suggestions include the Cavaliers for Fleming and, for Fort Vannoy, either the Squires, Nobles or Cavaliers. Another option would be no mascot at either school.
Baumann said he and Hobgood concluded the tribe-approved path was unworkable because, among other things, it meant using tribe-approved Native American curriculum in classrooms.