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Oregon Schools Could Keep Indian Mascots

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ROGUE RIVER, Ore. – Community members and supporters of Rogue River High school said they were happy it would be able to keep its “Chieftains” mascot and logos, after lawmakers passed a bill that would allow schools to keep Native American imagery by consulting with a local tribe. The bill is headed to Governor John Kitzhaber for approval.

“The Chieftains have been around for a long time, we go back quite a ways with the school here in Rogue River,” said Rich Pardy, vice chair of the Rogue River School Board.

But school officials were unclear about which local tribe would need to be consulted, and tribal representatives said there aren’t clear lines about which tribes are associated with which areas. Several tribes have historical connections to the Rogue River, including the Shasta people, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians, the Coquille people, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. No tribal governments currently operate in the immediate area.

“This is something that will have to be worked out,” said Ray Doering, representative of the Coquille tribe. Doering added that it was unlikely the Coquille could claim ties to the land.

A representative said the Grand Ronde would be considered a “local” tribe, because of its connections to the region. Siobhan Taylor said the confederated tribes supported the plans laid out in the bill, and want to open discussions with the school district.

“Finally the tribes, Oregon’s federally recognized tribes, are being consulted in this process, as they should have been all along,” she said.

Under the bill, the Oregon Board of Education would lay out guidelines for school district and tribes to follow. Kitzhaber vetoed a similar bill last year that did not involve the Board of Education.

In 2012, state laws required schools to remove all Native American logos, names and imagery within five years, or risk losing state funding. Pardy estimated that the cost of removing those items, including replacing the gym floor, would be between $50,000 and $75,000.