By Bryan Navarro
ROGUE RIVER, Ore. — Native American mascots are banned across all Oregon high schools, including the Rogue River High School Chieftains. What students, alumni, and school officials say a sense of pride is being taken away from them.
The Oregon board of education voted all state high schools retire their Native American mascots within five years or risk losing state funding. It affects eight schools, including Rogue River High School.
The chieftains’ emblem is all over the campus. In murals, stained glass, in donation bricks at the football field. The district superintendent was in Salem testifying to the board, saying that this was a chance to empower and educate students.
Also in Salem today, was Cheryl Martin Sund, the daughter of Jim Martin, a Native American who played a significant role for the high school for decades. He is represented at the top of the totem pole at the football stadium, which the district will likely have to take down.
“If they took this away, from our school district, basically, they were doing what the white man did to the Indians years and years ago; they’re stripping them of their identity and making them be something that they are not,” Sund says.
Some officials working in Indian education say they want to create a safe environment for students and if one student feels uncomfortable, that’s too much. Schools have until July 2017 to make the name change, or they could lose their school funding.