Racist “Indian” Mascot, Lack of Transparency and Ignorance = Molalla River School District!


“A mascot is not a figure of respect. A mascot represents a CAPTURED or SUBDUED entity, with their fierce essence pressed into service for the team or other entity controlling the mascot. The mascot’s actions are scripted by the controller; it is brought out and paraded around in a usually cartoonish representation of the actual entity. It is a figure of ridicule as much as it is a figure of power. It’s a real thing stripped down to simple pantomime.

Its reason for being is NOT respect of the thing it represents.

There are a thousand ways to show real respect for Native Americans and to give them real power. Sports mascots ain’t one of them.” – posted by “Yohocoma”

I AM A PERSON, NOT A MASCOT by Se-ah-dom Edmo:

I am writing today to ask for your support in a cause that is close to my heart – the use of Indian mascots, imagery and logos in Oregon’s public schools.

 “My family is from Oregon. My father grew up in a small Indian fishing village near The Dalles, called Celilo Falls. Growing up in rural Oregon in the 1950’s as a young Indian boy, he experienced a lot of prejudice and racism. They were allowed to eat at only one restaurant in town. They weren’t allowed at the public pool and were made to sit only in the balcony of the movie theatre.  Another part of his experience growing up there was as his school’s mascot.  

 As an adult he gets choked up recalling the days when people in his town would ‘ask’ him to wear his traditional regalia and dance before sports games. It is a painful memory disconnected from any genuine reverence or respect for Indian People. These were also the people who wouldn’t serve his family at stores and restaurants in town. His mom was not allowed into the hair salon. His family was regularly asked to leave public places and was threatened with police violence on a regular basis. 

 As his daughter I am recalling this history for my family. We need to recognize and own this history as Oregonians. Part of owning this history is acknowledging how this racist act continues to manifest today.” – Se-ah-dom Edmo Mar 14, 2012

Se-ah-dom Edmo, vice president of the Oregon Indian Education Association (left) and Brenda Frank, Chair of the Oregon State Board of Education after the historic May 17 vote to ban “indian” mascots.

 “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. A people who mean to be their own governor must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”  — James Madison (he must have been writing about the Molalla River School District when he said “farce or tragedy or both“!)

 Timeline of civil rights abuse, failure to educate and failure to honor public information laws that led to the current racist mascot hate speak disaster in the Molalla River School District:

It takes a backwater like insovlent Molalla years to cook up a disaster like the current “indian” mascot mess and it will take years to solve it. This is what you get when racists and a non-transparent School Board are “in charge”.

2006: Che Butler and his family visit Molalla for a sports at the high school. They witness an insulting racist  Molalla “Indian” mascot running around half naked with a target on his chest at Molalla High School. As Native Americans they are mortified and insulted.

Che Butler, the Native American athlete who visited Molalla and had the courage in 2006 to tell the Oregon Board of Education that Molalla’s RACIST “indian” mascot was offensive. Butler’s excellent PowerPoint started the process to ensure civil rights respect for Native Americans!

2007: Che Butler and his sister present facts about RACIST “Indian” mascots to the Oregon State Board of Education. Several meetings address the issue, with many professional educators and psychologists explaining why “Indian” mascots should be removed from public schools. It is clear these “indian” mascots violate the civil rights of Native Americans – the Federal Civil Rights Commission called for a ban on such mascots in 1991. The Oregonian honors that Civil Rights Commission ruling and has refused to print “Indian” team names since 1992.

Che Butler tells the State Board:”We live off honor and respect. We’re taught to respect all human beings and things on Earth, and live in harmony with them,” said Butler, 22, a member of the Siletz tribe of western Oregon. “That’s all I ask of this board and this state, show us the respect, us Native people.

2007 October: In the final meeting on the mascot issue in Salem, Molalla River School District’s (MRSD) Superintendent Kostur attends to hear the State Board of Education explain why “Indian” mascots must be removed. The State asks school districts to get the job done by the end of 2011.

2012: MRSD fails to remove the mascot or to even vet the issue in public in the five years up to the end of 2011. The State Board of Education begins hearings in early 2012 with expert after expert calling for a ban because more evidence has come to light about the harm racist “Indian” mascots do to Native American students and Native American self respect.

2012 March: When the mascot issue appears in the newspapers in March, I called Kostur,HS Principal Dalton and attempted to contact the MRSD board to ask the School District  to get ahead of the issue and to educate the community about the coming ban and the issues surrounding RACIST mascots. They HAD DONE NOTHING and they continued to DO NOTHING to educate the community about the racist “Indian” mascot. The pathetic MRSD School Board members “had headaches”, “had company”, didn’t answer the phone or return calls or simply didn’t care. Kostur lamely claimed he had tried to start to remove the “Indian” name from uniforms but some “slipped through”. He could sand out the giant “Indian” on the gym floor. Principal Dalton said he knew change was coming but had done nothing to educate the students or to provide robust factual Native American history about local events.

2012 April: Molalla “citizens” discover that “their” mascot “Indian” cartoon is in danger of being banned. Instead of learning the facts about racist “Indian” mascots and why the stereotyping of “Indians” is destructive and dishonorable, the Molalla white majority privilege gang starts an idiotic “Save our Indian” petition campaign. Of course, the MRSD administration and School Board fail to educate the community about the background of racist mascots or about the fact that reams of professional reports show race base mascots need to be removed from pubic schools.

Molalla starts to generate headlines that read “Small Town in Oregon Petitions to protect RACIST MASCOT”, just as I feared it would when I tried to get the MRSD to speak out to head off such bad publicity. Given Molalla’s years of ugly failures it might have been nice not to generate more bad publicity, but now it was too late.

2012 April 12: The MRSD board “discusses” a coming hearing about the ban at the tail end of a meeting and fails to establish policy or even talking points. One board member says they should “be careful” about what is said to the State, but the board fails to establish an official position. MRSD board member Ralph Gierke is “hopeful” the Tribes will decide and obviously hopes to “bargain for an acceptable level of racism” rather than face the need to protect ALL students. One woman board member (all white board) whines that she sure hopes Gierke is right because she loves the “Indian”.

2012 April 27: MRSD board members Ralph Gierke and Linda Eskridge “represent” the MRSD at the State hearing and  much make fools out of MRSD board. Gierke does most of the talking, using phrases like “means squat”, tries to impress because he was a Vietnam vet (who cares!) and  shows no sensitivity to the racist issues. Gierke puts cost above solving a civil rights problem.

Gierke makes the nutty claim at the hearing that the “last Chief” in Molalla approved the mascot, but that the supposed approval is lost in boxes! Gierke and the people of Molalla who cling to their racist mascot need to CAREFULLY read over and over the heartbreaking story told by Oregonian Native American, Vice Chair of the Oregon Indian Education Association Se-ah-dom Edmo, posted at the top, about how her father was coerced into being a token “indian” mascot: ”

“Another part of his experience growing up there was as his school’s mascot.  As an adult he gets choked up recalling the days when people in his town would ‘ask’ him to wear his traditional regalia and dance before sports games. It is a painful memory disconnected from any genuine reverence or respect for Indian People.”

What does Molalla think the last Molalla Indian felt when they plopped a plains Indian warbonnet on the last Molalla Indian and paraded him around on someone’s fancy horse like a carnival attraction? Surely he felt like Se-ah-dom Edmo’s father, odd man out who could not say NO to being exploited by Molalla’s white majority priviledge!

Gierke makes unfounded claims about “contact” with “Tribes”.  Gierke says that he “could have shot” the administration for not telling the board about the Che Butler case and that he would have “gone ballistic” if he had known. But then he more babbles about costs. Neither he or Eskridge could verify costs but they promise to submit details to the State.

The Hearings Officer asks Gierke to explain what he means when he claims “other mascots” will be endangered if there is a ban. Gierke’s crazy answer is that “Hispanic” mascots could be banned – clearly proving he knows nothing about the issue, because if he did he would know there ARE NO HISPANIC MASCOTS and that Native Americans are the only race in America subjected to being cartoon mascots. Gierke obviously does not know he is addressing a racially diverse State Board of Education, including a Chair who is a Native American and a Board member who is Hispanic.

Here is a quote from newspaper coverage about a State Board member who must have been surprised that any school board member was ignorant to the FACT there are no “Hispanic” mascots:

Vice Chairman Artemio Paz said he agrees with research that indicates Indian mascots are tantamount to institutionalized racism and give tacit approval for stereotyping and bullying.

‘It leads to racist comments and negative messages for many of those people in the Native American population,” he said. “Why we should search for acceptable levels does not resonate.'”

Gierke might want to research the background of officials he addresses before he goes out and makes racist gaffes like that in the future! Mr. Artemio Paz, in addition to being a member or the State Board of Education, is a highly respected architect, educator and served as the Chair of the Hispanic Business Association! I bet Artemio Paz  knows where to tell people NOT to invest after Gierke’s “testimony”!

Chair of the Oregon Board of Education Brenda Frank, member of the Klamath Tribes.

I deliver a statement in favor of the ban (posted below speech #1) right after Gierke to counter the Gierke/Eskridge Molalla idiocy and to show that at least one person in Molalla understands that race based mascots are destructive. I get a round of applause from Native Americans – apparently few white people understand how important it is to end these race based cartoon stereotypes. It was AN HONOR to shake hands with the inspiring Native American women fighting for respect for their children in Oregon’s public schools. It was wrenching to hear that they would NEVER allow their children to set foot in a public school that featured a RACIST “indian” mascot – like Molalla!

2012 May: I send letters (posted as #4 & 5 below) to the Molalla Pioneer with facts about how harmful “indian” mascots are, in hopes of educating the community – something the schools and the MRSD board clearly won’t do.

2012 May: I file a detailed Public Information Request with the School District asking for information about when (or if) the Board was informed about the Che Butler complaint and for all details to verify Gierke’s claims made ON THE RECORD to the State Board about contact with Tribes, “approval of last Chief of the mascot”, and the promised detailed list of costs to replace the mascot.

To date, Gierke, in VIOLATION OF STATE RECORDS laws, has FAILED to respond. So much for honesty, accountability and transparency in Molalla River School District! (Maybe next time the District will act like an elected body and send someone with an approved statement to important recorded hearings!).

2012 May: The MRSD board proclaims it WILL NOT PARTICIPATE in an open community meeting on public school choices if the mascot issue is raised. This is a direct violation of free speech and shows how closed minded, non-accountable and non-transparent the MRSD is.

2012 May 16: The Molalla Pioneer publishes a horrific letter (posted below as part of speech #2) about racist harassment of a mixed race boy in Molalla by 5 or more teenagers who threaten to “hang him”. Letter is forwarded to State Board of Education as proof of the failure of MRSD to protect Molalla youth from racism. The State Board is grateful that the letter was forwarded – it proves that civil rights abuse and racism are problems in Molalla.

2012 May 16: Kostur and School Board members come to the community meeting about public school choices. Kostur has no good answer when confronted about the racist harassment letter in the Pioneer. School Board member Janette Palmer takes it upon herself to act as meeting censor and refuses even in private to hear concerns about how the School Board mishandled the mascot issue.

2012 May 17: I deliver another statement (posted below speech #2) in favor the ban in Salem. My submission includes a big photo essay of all the crazy ways racist Molalla abuses and dishonors “indian” symbols, including teepee, totem pole, the billboard mixing up the “indian” picture and name with MCC advertising, the scoreboard “indian” and a host of others. I also include the text of the phony “indian” ceremony in the fall where the High School assembly plays “indian”.

The State Board votes and wisely approves the ban by a 5-1 margin with no waivers. The only “no” vote comes from a white woman trying, apparently, to protect the racist mascots in Linn County schools. State staffers ask if I fear for my safety after having the courage to speak out in favor of the ban. After the vote, newspaper coverage noted that:

In her comments, Frank specifically commended Liz Alperin, vice chairwoman of the Lebanon School Board, for voting against Lebanon’s state board challenge, and Scio music teacher Frank Craig for asking for more discussion on the matter.

To stand against the majority is a very hard thing to do,” she said.”

I am proud that I am never afraid to stand against white privilege majority when it comes to outing and ending RACISM!

2012 May 17: Racists in Molalla go wild after the ban is announced! Molalla School Board member Janette Palmer sides with the racists who whip up hate speak on the Pioneer facebook page against anyone who favors the ban. We heard that people with disabilities who support the ban must have been “dropped on their head” by their father (thanks, MT!) and that someone named “Kenny” will punch the face in of a ban supporter if he sees her in town. The racist Molalla white majority privilege gang even throws in threats and hate speak about gays. Nice work racists!

As usual, Molalla’s own words prove that intolerance, prejudice and racism are alive and well in Molalla.

Several comments on the Pioneer facebook page are so nasty that they are sent to the State Board of Education so that the Board can work to stop RACISM and BULLYING in Molalla. Luckily, from those comments I heard from staffers in Salem after I spoke on May 17, it is clear that Salem already knows the MRSD is a hotbed of racism and bullying.

Let’s hope the new MRSD Superintendent knows how to end racism and foster respect for civil rights in Molalla because clearly we are losing that race. One Native American, reading the comments here, wondered how anyone could stand to live near that “Crackerville”. Think about it Molalla – that’s how you look to the outside world!

2012 May 24: The Oregonian publishes my letter in favor of the ban in the Letters to the Editor section (posted below #3).

2012 May 25: I discover  excellent comments from “Yohocoma” (posted below under “Yohocoma”) on the Oregonian comment page that clearly explain why some Tribes are reluctant to endorse the ban  – it is all about fear of blowback and a need to exert sovereign power. I had learned the same thing calling Tribal Councils. Certainly we need to honor local Native American history – but that is entirely divorced from racist “indian” mascots. There is nothing stopping Molalla from interfacing with any Tribe to learn better ways to teach the truth about what happened locally. That can’t be tied to keeping a mascot or making deals for “acceptable levels of racism” as Gierke longed to do.

If the Tribes ever needed to fear RACIST BLOWBACK they can see it in spades now in white majority privilege Molalla. The racists in Molalla continue to take great glee in using the “indian” and refuse to accept that once something is labeled harmful because it is racist stereotyping it should be quickly dropped, instead of fanning more flames of racism.

Hopefully, it will start to sink in at MRSD that now that the mascot is labeled as “RACIST” it will be a lot easier for civil rights law suits to be filed if the community and schools keep disrespecting Native Americans. Current behavior points to that – and I would enjoy seeing the real waste of money that would happen if the MRSD doesn’t work quickly to educate the community and move toward a new mascot. Those kinds of lawsuits would make the cost of quickly moving on to a new mascot look like a drop in the bucket.

Your choice, MRSD: Fan the flames of RACISM and risk getting sued or move ahead quickly for change.

And so do the School Boards, teachers and uninformed citizens that cling to RACIST MASCOTS! Stop contributing to RACISM IN MOLALLA!

1 .Speech to State School Board, April 27, 2012 in favor of a ban on Native American mascots in Oregon’s public schools:

 April 27, 2012

Dear Oregon State Board of Education,

I am in favor of banning Indian mascots in Oregon public schools.

I am heartsick, given the facts and the long opportunity for schools to make voluntary changes, that we are here today debating this issue. I am very upset that my taxes go to support an education system that has failed to respect the civil rights of Native Americans. It is hurtful that we would allow Native Americans to be turned into objects, per the definition of mascot, that represent lucky charms often used to market and advertise products. What a hurtful message that sends.

I have reviewed the reports filed by a myriad of educational and psychological experts. The Civil Rights Commission called for an end to “Indian” mascots in 1991 noting that mascots are “particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country.” I hope every member of this Board has taken the time to carefully read those compelling processional and legal documents? Those reports all say that Native American mascots are harmful to the Native American students, that they are racist and sexist. These mascots trap Native Americans in the 16th to 18th centuries. They are all male images and generally represent warriors. They are historically inaccurate. They reduce a proud culture and a race of people to cartoon stereotypes. They fail to honor Native Americans for their current high contributions as contemporary Americans.

I live in the Molalla River School District where Che Butler’s family was subjected to that horrible mascot display. I was inspired by Mr. Butler’s powerpoint.  I called Molalla High School Principal Randy Dalton two weeks ago to find out what changes had been made by Molalla. Dalton said he believed the mascot would have to go but had done nothing to help the students and their parents understand the issues. No attempts have been made to use curriculum that the Grand Ronde Tribes have told me they have available to teach the true history of their Tribes.

Superintendent Wayne Kostur told me that all new uniforms were supposed to have had “Indian” removed but that some basketball shorts had “just slipped through”. Kostur also indicated that the auditorium floor, which features a large image of the Indian mascot with the war bonnet, would soon need to be refinished and that it would be easy to sand out the image.

Obviously, both the High School Principal and the Superintendent of Molalla Schools realize there is a need for change. Yet, the Superintendent and the Molalla School Board have completely failed to inform the community about the civil rights issues connected to the cartoon Indian mascot. So we now have the angry community blowback about saving the war bonnet Plains Indian mascot. Why wasn’t education about needed mascot change mandated back when this issue first came up in 2006?

I checked the local newspaper archives to see what the paper had been printing. In the past year headlines had phrases including:

Hammer Molalla Indians

Can’t hide Indian pride

Indians skid

Indians conquer

Indians crush

Indians run over

Indians claw

Indians kept digging

Molalla Indians pounded

Indians execution was sloppy, their energy was lacking

Indians fall to Indians

1234 Indians add one more

To add more insult, the word Indian has been morphed into Indianettes for the school’s dance team.

The Molalla Indians boys’ soccer schedule appeared in the paper with an image of a giant arrow shaft. The complete sports schedule prominently featured the Indian in a war bonnet mascot in color.

The High School auditorium has the large Indian wearing a war bonnet on the floor. How can it be right for students to run over, drip sweat on, and dribble balls on top of that image of the Indian the school is supposedly honoring?

The MRSD had a hazing case a few years ago and 5 students went to jail for sexual abuse of another athlete. A MRSD high school teacher is currently awaiting trail for allegedly sexually abusing a student. We have anti-bullying campaigns; we have serious behavior problems in schools, so how can we ignore this important civil rights issue which could add to problems?  If schools couldn’t follow the gentle ask to have changed these racist mascots by now, we certainly can’t trust them to do it voluntarily. The Board should demand immediate compliance – these schools already had over 5 years to change.

Small towns should not be teaching the children that these race based mascots are acceptable, only to have the children grow up and go out into the greater world and learn it wasn’t acceptable. Aren’t the small towns actually limiting their futures and their children’s’ future’s by presenting and trying to protect this kind of disrespect of Native Americans, when most places and institutions have abandoned race based mascots?

I reject any cost factor as a reason for ending Native American mascots. The same false arguments are made every time civil rights issues arise, including access for handicapped. The cost of compliance has no bearing in civil rights. I would imagine failing to implement a ban will leave the schools and the State Board highly vulnerable to civil rights law suits which could be far more costly than producing new mascots.

I count among my most inspiring and touching learning experiences the stories and factual historical accounts the members of the Grand Ronde Tribes presented in recent years in Oregon City. The Molalla area was used for thousands of years by amazing people, who tended the wild, lived sustainably and loved mother earth. Their offspring, who are our fellow Oregonians today, aren’t honored by being objectified as lucky charms for children.  They aren’t honored as contemporary Americans because their civil rights are being violated. We need to truly honor our Native American fellow Oregonians by immediately abandoning all race based mascots in Oregon.

Thank you for considering my concerns.

2. Speech to Oregon State Board of Education, May 17, 2012 in favor of the ban (including text of the horrific letter outlining racist harassment in Molalla):

 May 17, 2012

Dear State Board of Education,

I strongly endorse the proposal to ban Indian mascots. I embrace the myriad of professionals who have outlined how harmful it is for Native Americans to be the only race in our nation stereotyped as cartoon lucky charm mascots. I embrace the 1991 Civil Rights statement and the letter the ACLU submitted. I believe there should be no waivers or exceptions. All publicly funded schools should be required to teach their communities about civil rights and to provide historically accurate Native American history.

Molalla and other Districts are trying to play the white majority privilege card to keep “their” Indians. On April 27, Molalla School Board member Ralph Gierke, noting the Che Butler complaint, told you “I could have shot the administrators who never told us about it. It never came to the School Board. Had it come to me I would have gone frankly ballistic.”  Yet now that the Molalla Board knows the issue, they have done nothing but defend the racist mascot.

If MRSD was serious about doing something about racism, prejudice and civil rights, wouldn’t the District be eager to educate our community? In fact, the opposite has happened.  A scheduled community meeting on public school choices was informed that the District would not participate unless we agreed not to bring up the mascot. In a public information request, the District could not verify potential costs, provide the number of Native American students or document the claimed approval of the mascot by the last chief let alone any contact with Tribes. Board member Gierke actually said here that Hispanic mascots that would be endangered if we banned “Indian” mascots.

It is easy to document the disrespectful ways Molalla features their “Indian” mascot. Molalla has rows of Indian heads with war bonnets spray painted on lockers, advertising sign Indians, a totem pole, a teepee, a metal head war bonnet Indian sculpture and an orange foam finger Indian.   Clothes feature slogans like Fear the Indians and How About Them Indians. Multiple internet sites sell items like Molalla Indian car floor mats and cell phone covers. There is no universal image but every image I viewed was historically inaccurate, distasteful and stereotyped Native Americans. The entire “Indian” mascot culture is dishonorable and smacks of playing “Indians” at a 1950’s summer camp for white kids.

Gierke acknowledged on April 27th that “there is prejudice and lack of respect…” but immediately began to complain about the cost to change the mascot.

Yesterday, the Molalla Pioneer published this letter from Kirk Gilbertson, Molalla

My son is one-fourth African American and has mentioned to me that he gets called all kinds of names around Molalla because of it. I kind of thought, “right,” this is 2012; I am sure there can not be that much racism here.

 My son ran home yesterday as a group of eight or so white teenagers probably around 15 years old called him the “N” word and yelled they were going to hang him. He ran into the house and I went outside to see this group of teenagers looking to harm my son because of his skin color.

 The group was so brazen they actually asked if my son would come out and talk to them. I yelled at the kids, stating, “Do you realize how illegal your actions are?” and (told them) to leave. We called the police and filed a report.

 It is sad to see this in today’s society and makes me wonder about living in Molalla. 

Kirk Gilbertson, Molalla

Molalla clearly has problems with racism and has a growing Hispanic population that exceeds 15%. Most children would be fearful of exposing bullies and of challenging a School District on civil rights. We heard on April 27 that even high school “leaders” were not being taught about civil rights. Students are potentially subject to cover-ups and secrecy like we experience in Molalla. Americans are mobile and no one Tribe can represent the interests of all Native Americans so I reject Tribal approval for waivers.

We can’t ever put a cost on protecting civil rights. Why would we dare to keep racist “Indian” mascots when we know they are potential civil rights flash points? In light of the volumes of expert testimony about how harmful these racist cartoon images are, I urge you to protect all our children and to honor contemporary Native Americans with a universal ban on “Indian” mascots.

3. Letter published in the Oregonian May 24, 2012:

 Michele Elder’s skewed view of “honor” in her letter (5-21-2012) decrying the ban on “Indian” mascots proves how much the ban is needed. Native Americans are not honored by images that trap them in historically inaccurate, sexist visions of supposed past glory a la Walt Disney movies and white kids’ summer camps. We don’t “honor” any other races in America by making them lucky charms for sports events.

We have been failing to honor our fellow Oregonian Native Americans because many of us don’t comprehend the current Native American struggles for inclusion and respect. Our schools fail to teach the terrible truth of the long history of horrific genocide, the suppression of culture and the broken treaties suffered by Native Americans.

It is long overdue to retire white majority privilege “Indian” stereotypes and honor Native Americans as contemporary achievers. I believe highest honors go to State Board of Education Chair Brenda Frank, a descendant of the Nez Perce Tribes and affiliated with the Klamath Tribes. Frank’s skillful and sensitive guidance to the mascot ban allows Oregon to stand proud as a leader in civil rights for all students.

4. Letter to Molalla Pioneer May 2012:

I am heartsick, given the facts and the long opportunity to make voluntary changes, that we are debating the “indian mascot”. It is tragic that we have allowed Native Americans to be turned into objects, per the definition of mascot, that represent lucky charms often used to market and advertise products.

The callous, selfish petitioners are sadly deluded – and in for a rude surprise – if they actually believe the deliberately vague email from the Grand Ronde Tribes is an endorsement of Molalla’s lucky charm “indian” cartoon. “People should remember that an honor isn’t born when it parts the honorer’s lips, it is born when it is accepted in the honoree’s ear.” (Glenn T. Morris, University of Colorado professor / Native American activist).

The US Civil Rights Commission called for an end to “Indian” mascots in 1991, noting that mascots are “particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country.”

Educational and psychological experts ( “mascot project” at http://www.oiea.org/ ) testify that “indian” mascots are harmful to Native Americans because they are racist and sexist. They trap Native Americans in the 16th to 18th centuries and are historically inaccurate. They reduce proud cultures and a race of people to cartoon stereotypes that fail to honor Native Americans for their current high contributions as contemporary Americans.

The High School gym floor features the large cartoon “indian” with the Plains war bonnet. What “honor” is bestowed when sweat drips, feet grind and balls pound on top of that “indian” stereotype?

A national story about Molalla screams “Oregon Town’s Residents Fight to Keep Racist Mascot”. Why teach children that race based mascots are acceptable, only to have them later learn that “indian” mascots are racist? Cost can’t be an issue, because keeping a racist mascot will leave the District vulnerable to expensive civil rights law suits.

I count among my most inspiring and touching learning experiences the tragic factual historical accounts the Grand Ronde Tribes presented recently in Oregon City. The Molalla area was used for thousands of years by amazing people, who peacefully tended the wild, lived sustainably and loved Mother Earth, only to have their cultures disrespected, their lands stolen and treaties broken. Their offspring aren’t honored by being objectified as lucky charms for children.  They aren’t honored as contemporary Americans as their civil rights are violated. The graceful abandonment of “indian” mascots is the only way to truly honor Native Americans.

5. May letter #2 to Molalla Pioneer after the April 27 hearing:

In Salem recently, a parade of white student “leaders” begged the State School Board to let them keep racist “Indian” mascots. One student described rubbing the head of an “Indian” effigy for “good luck” on the way to games.

Brenda Frank, Board Chair/ Nez Perce/Klamath Tribal member, dryly asked a white teenager what her “leadership” shirt meant, whether she helped students understand civil rights and what her school taught about civil rights.

The student squirmed and mumbled “They might have taught us something about that in Junior High – but this is about MY school pride!” A palpable silent groan filled the room.

In 2006, a half naked Molalla “Indian” mascot with a target on his chest brought the issue to the State. Native American Che Butler protested that no other race is used as a mascot (google “Che Butler powerpoint”). Superintendent Kostur participated in a 2007 State Board meeting where Districts were asked to educate communities about the need to retire racist mascots.

Kostur and staff have failed miserably; students obviously have not been taught about the history of Native American struggles! A MRSD student told the Oregonian “We’re all Indians”. Sadly, if we were “all Indians” we would be the smallest minority (1.7%), have the lowest high school graduation rates (under 50%), the highest poverty rates and the highest suicide rates by far for adolescents/young adults.

The internet is filled with facts about why racist mascots are destructive (“Oregon Indian Education Project” or “Students and Teachers Against Racism”). Sensitive student leaders in Enterprise helped their community gracefully abandon their racist “Indian” mascot years ago.

White majority privilege – like the “save “OUR” Indian” petition – is often used as an excuse to void the civil rights of minorities. If properly taught, students could take pride in finding a new mascot and thereby honor the Native American quest for a level playing field of mutual respect and inclusion in contemporary society.

“Yohocoma” posted on the Oregonian re: mascots:

A mascot is not a figure of respect. A mascot represents a CAPTURED or SUBDUED entity, with their fierce essence pressed into service for the team or other entity controlling the mascot. The mascot’s actions are scripted by the controller; it is brought out and paraded around in a usually cartoonish representation of the actual entity. It is a figure of ridicule as much as it is a figure of power. It’s a real thing stripped down to simple pantomime.

Its reason for being is NOT respect of the thing it represents.

There are a thousand ways to show real respect for Native Americans and to give them real power. Sports mascots ain’t one of them.

I imagine that the tribes are trying not to make a big deal out of this rule, and probably feel somewhat embarrassed by it, because it focuses attention on racial prejudice in the most symbolic of ways, rather than in a way that invests them with actual power.

That said, I think the rule is still right. We’re long overdue to end institutionalized ways of ridiculing racial groups’ weaknesses. The weakness exploited with native American mascots is their domination by white power. If you don’t think that domination is still real, you don’t know much about the kinds of lives huge numbers of native Americans live in this country, even today.

Posted on Two tribes call state’s Native American mascot ban disappointing on May 22, 2012, 10:11PM

“Yohocoma” posted on the Oregonian:

There would be “hell to pay” to get rid of the Indian mascot there? THAT’S what would have people there up in arms? Well, it is Roseburg after all.

The Cow Creek quote illustrates the mixed feelings and difficult position of natives. They want the local white people they interact with to genuinely not want the racism and get rid of it themselves – which would represent REAL evolution in race relations – rather than having a ban forced on them from above. They want to integrate with white society and have power in it. They know that having an authority figure tell their white neighbors what to do doesn’t get them real respect, just like a bullied child usually doesn’t want the bully’s mom to punish the bully on account of themselves – that’s just embarrassment which doesn’t change the reality of the power imbalance.

Posted on Two tribes call state’s Native American mascot ban disappointing on May 22, 2012, 9:09PM

“Yohocoma” posted on the Oregonian:

Surprising ban of mascots, as most folks recognize and revere the Native Americans who were annihilated from Oregon in the 1850/1860s.

It’s an interesting claim that 150 years after white people conquered natives Americans, took all of their land they wanted, and enclosed them in basically small relocation camps on undesirable land across the country, that “most folks” now “revere” them.

Most folks today show that reverence how? Returning wide swaths of land to their political control? Consistently promoting them to high positions in government and industry? Maybe granting them meaningful cash reparations?

No, mainly by mascotting them for their children’s sports teams, turning them into gambling lords over a bunch of foolish drunk people, and patting each other on the back for no longer hurling racial epithets at natives or explicitly making them do things at gunpoint. My, how evolved we are!”

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Racist “Indian” Mascot, Lack of Transparency and Ignorance = Molalla River School District!

  1. Diane Hill says:

    Perfect! Awesome! This says it all! I’m sending it to everyone I know! This situation exists in many, many towns in Oregon, hopefully to a lesser degree. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER, people need to read this and get some understanding and then get with the program!

    • oregonfirst says:

      Thanks Diane! Your opinion is primary because you have walked the walk for so very long on this issue. Oregon must be proud of being a leader on this! It was very telling that even though the April 27 hearing was at the Capitol in Salem, the only elected official who tried to oppose it was a self-serving rep from Linn County, home to two schools with racist mascots. Most of Oregon can see these mascots must go – only Crackervilles try to protect them. Molalla has no leg to stand on – all it can do is attack those of us who favor the ban and try to censor us. I’m proud to be on the side of CIVIL RIGHTS FOR ALL! I support the First Amendment, too!

  2. Rusty Tyler says:

    I am shocked to learn as a new-bee to Oregon HOW MANY elementary and high schools have used this RACIST image as mascots! I wonder how they would vote if we used a JEWISH RABBI in full garb at a game and as a mascot? OR a Catholic Priest doing the dance with a cross in his hand and displayed as a mascot? or how about a MUSLIM in berka and turban? NO everyone would be shocked and of course say THAT is disrespectful…but to me the image of a Native American in INCORRECT head dress and displayed holding a tomahawk and painted skin to be fire engine red is JUST AS OFFENSIVE and horrible!! NO one would tolerate a presbeterian, lutheran, baptist or any other CHRISTIAN “mascot” in ministerial robes and holding the BIBLE dancing around and running around at half time now would they??
    PLEASE keep this important fight up as IGNORANCE is one of the main reasons it continues. How else could it not in this area when most of the tribes that lived here were killed, or transported “elsewhere” and we have no real connection with WHO the REAL AMERICANS were/are….?
    how sad for liveral oregon. I tell you it makes me want to reconsider making this state my home!
    R. Tyler

    • oregonfirst says:

      Dear Mr. Tyler,

      Great comment! When people like you write, it makes Molalla Blog worthwhile. Don’t give up on Oregon. I have been here since 1969 when I came from Ann Arbor Michigan and I never looked back. Portland was my long time home and I enjoyed its “weirdness” till I moved to rural Oregon near Molalla. Molalla is in conflict with accepting its place as a failed timber resource based economy and is having a hard time accepting 21st century realities, including rapidly changing demographics, environmentalism, the need to be sustainable, Molalla’s insolvency and the fact that box canyon backwoods low quality Molalla won’t be growing in the future economy.

      In general, Oregon is, in the metro areas, very progressive and liberal. We need to bring the backward, backwoods, insular people up to speed about racism. Keep your eyes open for future opportunities to tell people about any racism. We can’t be silenced on these issues. We must speak up for equality and respect for everyone in our society, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation.

  3. Pingback: Molalla’s RACIST “Indian” Mascot: Fact versus FICTION! | Molalla Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s