Friday, May 18, 2012

Historic day for Oregon

Enterprise High School 'Savages'
On Thursday, Oregon went where most states won't. It banned Native American mascots at public schools.

If those 15 schools won't comply by 2017, they'll lose state funding.

"I'm overwhelmed, but I'm holding back on my emotions -- I have a meeting to finish," said board Chairwoman Brenda Frank,  a member of the Klamath Tribes, in The Oregonian. "It's been a long time coming." 


Like most states, Oregon has treated its indigenous people, along with African-Americans, poorly.

This change in mascots, is a small, symbolic step, but one worth taking.

School districts are whining that during this age of plummeting resources, this is not the time to impose such a needlessly costly measure.

Of course, there is never a good time to do the right thing. But, districts have five years to comply with the new rule. That's more than enough time.

This issue of Indian mascots has been around for decades. 

Forty years ago, Stanford University changed its mascot from the Indians to the Cardinal. Yes, the Cardinal is a ridiculous name. The students chose Robber Barons after the school's namesake, but, obviously that wasn't used. 

Has Stanford gone downhill since then? Au contraire. Stanford is more respected now than it was then.

In Enterprise, in northeast Oregon where Chief Joseph once lived, the team is known as the "Savages."

Twenty years ago, the editor of the local paper, the Wallowa County Chieftan, took the widely unpopular stance that the Enterprise logo had to go.

Also, a little over 20 years ago, The Oregonian newspaper took an ill-advised stance of not using the name of Native American mascots in its sports stories. It made for awkward reporting. Plus, instead of shining light on the issue, the paper muddled it. In order to change things, they must be confronted on a daily basis.

The Oregon schools with Native American mascots haven't been around that long, in comparison to actual Native Americans, so the argument that "tradition" will be lost is bogus.

To reduce Native Americans to caricatures is offensive to most reasonable citizens.

It's time to not exploit Native Americans, but help them achieve a better life.

It's important for Oregonians to show respect to all of its citizens. And, it starts with the original Oregonians.

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