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Some Oregon schools may be able to keep tribal mascots

PORTLAND — The Oregon Board of Education will allow some public schools to keep their Native American-themed mascots if they secure permission from one of Oregon's nine federally recognized tribes.

State school officials had previously ordered 14 schools with Native American mascots to choose new ones by 2017. But the amendment approved Thursday allows schools to keep the mascots as long as tribal officials agree with them, the Oregonian reported.

Department of Education spokeswoman Crystal Greene said the decision followed discussions with each of Oregon's tribes on the issue.

Some tribes and school districts have worked together on plans that would keep the mascots and include more tribal history in the classroom.

Native Americans have been asking state leaders to ban tribal-themed mascots, such as the Warriors, Braves and Indians, since 2006.

The Rogue River School District's Chieftains' name is one of the 14 affected by the decision. The school has used the name since the 1970s, when a student dressed in traditional Native American clothing would perform dances during football games. The school eventually stopped using the image of an Indian as its mascot, changing it to a spear instead. 

District superintendent Paul Young could not be reached for comment Friday, but he has previously said the district has a "pretty good relationship" with local tribes. In 2014, Rogue River Jr./Sr. High School's gymnasium was dedicated to late school board member Jim Martin, a grandson of Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph.