Our Northwest

Native American mascots still debated

Friday, October 18, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

Across the country the debate continues: Should the NFL’s Washington Redskins change their nickname? Is “Redskins” offensive to Native Americans?
   Here in the Northwest, sentiment is mixed. As of Oct. 18, a Vancouver Columbian poll showed that 75% (845 votes) say, “It should stay. It’s been a longstanding nickname and today it’s not intended to offend.”
   Nonetheless, schools are doing away with traditional mascots in favor of politically correct options. Port Townsend High School’s board voted in June to drop its Redskins name and mascot. Issaquah High School, known as the Indians until 2002, became the Eagles in 2003. West Seattle High School also dropped its Indians moniker in 2002, becoming the Wildcats.
   Several Washington high schools retain the nickname “Indians” – Colville, North Central (Spokane), Reardan, Renton, South Bend, Toledo, Touchet, and Wishram. However, only one high school in Washington retains the Redskins name: Wellpinit School, located on the Spokane Indian Reservation.
   In 2012, the Oregon State Board of Education banned all native American team names, mascots, and logos. Schools must comply by 2017 or risk losing state funding.
   At the college level, the Stanford Indians famously became the Stanford Cardinal (the color, not the bird) in 1972 and adopted a tree as its mascot. One year later, Eastern Washington University dropped its Savages nickname in in favor of the Eagles. In 2000, Seattle University changed nicknames from the Chieftains to the Redhawks.
   Despite these notable changes, many high schools and middle schools across Washington retain Native American nicknames, including Braves, Chiefs, Red Devils, and Warriors.
   Proponents of change say the Native American names are demeaning and offensive. Their opponents say the names respect and honor bravery and tradition.
   So, the debate continues.
   Check out the Washington College and High School Mascots website, and read about the national controversy surrounding the Redskins nickname.

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