WARRENTON — The Warrenton-Hammond School Board voted Tuesday to move away from Native American imagery in its mascots, in advance of a statewide ban that becomes effective next year.
The Warrior mascot at Warrenton High School will be redesigned to be non-native. The mascot will replace the Warrenton Grade School mascot, the Braves.
Superintendent Mark Jeffery reiterated concerns that, despite an exception recently passed to the mascot ban, the issue is not settled. If the district does not comply, it could lose state funding, which Jeffery has said is about 65 percent of Warrenton’s budget.
The state Board of Education voted to ban Native American mascots in 2012. Under pressure from the Oregon Legislature, the board voted 4-2 earlier this year to allow an exception if districts got the sponsorship of a federally recognized tribe. Vice Chairwoman Angela Bowen said the Board of Education had been “bullied” by the Oregon Legislature into acting against their consciences.
Warrenton had been pursuing a possible agreement with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, which last month signed a sponsorship agreement with the Banks School District regarding their mascot, the Braves. Banks will have a redesigned logo approved by Grand Ronde, and incorporate local Native American history curriculum designed by the tribe into social studies classes.
Jeffery said all it would take is a change in the governor’s office or tribal council in Grand Ronde to end the exception, adding the sponsoring tribe could nix the agreement with two weeks’ notice. Similar concerns led the Three Rivers School District in Grants Pass to move away from the Fort Vannoy Elementary School Indians and Fleming Middle School Rogues earlier this year.
“I think it’s important to note that, however we feel about keeping imagery, there’s a lot of district resources spent working through this,” board member Greg Morrill said. “I think we’ve got a lot more important things you could be doing.”
Over the past five years, the district has moved away from the more cartoonish depictions of Native Americans. The Midwest-themed Native Americans in headdress came off of the high school’s helmets and merchandise. The district replaced a cartoonish mural of a Native American dribbling a basketball, his feet stuck in gum, with a mural of Clatsop-Nehalem tribal members rowing a canoe with Saddle Mountain in the background.
Jeffery has said the cost is minimal to remove the remaining vestiges of Native American mascots, including some stickers on football helmets, a bench and some old gym pads he added needed replacement anyway. He said the purple Native American statue, comprised of 1,000 miniature Native American caricatures welded together by students in the 1970s, will be taken down and put in storage until the district figures out what to do with it.
The mascot issue in Warrenton has attracted relatively little vocal interest. At a school board meeting last month, several community members came to testify in support of abandoning Native American imagery, a smaller number asking to move away from the Warrior name altogether. Jeffery said he received some comments from people who did not want to abandon the mascot, but added that keeping the Warrior name was more important than the imagery.
With input from the community, district staff will design a new logo.
“My own personal opinion is a ‘W,’” Jeffery said. “I don’t think the alphabet police will be after us.”