Native American mascots must go after veto

Gov. John Kitzhaber on Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed some Oregon schools to keep their mascots, nicknames and logos that depict Native Americans.

The bill would have reversed part of a ban on Native American mascots imposed by the state Board of Education, allowing schools to keep the mascots if they could secure approval from the nearest tribe.

Under the board's ban, eight schools known as the Braves, Indians or Chieftains will have to drop the name by 2017 or risk losing state funding. The Rogue River School District's combined junior and senior high school, which has a Chieftain mascot, is one of them.

Seven schools called the Warriors can keep the nickname but cannot have a logo that depicts Native Americans.

Critics of Native American mascots say they reinforce stereotypes and promote hostility.

Supporters say they're a source of pride. Requiring schools to work with local tribes would be an opportunity to build trust and understanding, said Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, a Republican from Scio who fought hard to get the bill through the House and Senate and urged Kitzhaber not to veto it.

Sprenger said Friday she was "extremely disappointed with the governor's decision" and would continue working on the issue.

"I was very encouraged when I had conversations with the governor, however once the staff ran interference, it became very difficult to have those kinds of conversations," Sprenger said.

The House and Senate both voted overwhelmingly to ease up on the mascot ban. The issue could re-emerge when lawmakers return to Salem in February.

Since the 1970s, more than 600 high school and college teams across the country have done away with their Native American nicknames, including 20 in Oregon.

In 2006, the Oregon Board of Education adopted a nonbinding recommendation that schools stop using Native mascots. A handful did, but some small communities have resisted.

Rogue River had decided to wait and see what the governor did before moving ahead on choosing a new high school mascot.

The district opted to change Rogue River Elementary School's mascot to a Riverhawk instead of a Brave. The Riverhawk logo is used with permission from Umpqua Community College, which uses the same mascot, district officials said.

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