Washington has a new law that bans schools from using Native American imagery without a tribe’s consent. The Spokane Tribe says it won’t be endorsing any such proposals.
The Reardan-Edwall, Wellpinit and Spokane school districts all currently use Native American themed mascots. North Central High School in Spokane and Reardan-Edwall, which is spread between Lincoln and Spokane Counties and has many students from the tribe, both use Indians. Wellpinit uses the term “Redskins.”
Spokane Tribe Chairwoman Carol Evans said after the law passed, some younger tribal members, who are also Reardan-Edwall alumni, said they experienced racism while in school and didn’t want the district to continue using a caricature of a Native American.
She said the tribe is likely to give a similar answer to any school or organization that asks to use imagery as a mascot.
“They’re trying to reach out to the tribe to get support, and I don’t think the tribe is willing to do that. It’s like, yes, you can continue to make fun of our kids, yes you can continue to make fun of our culture, yes you can continue to downgrade us, it’s really an insensitivity toward the history, where we were forced to assimilate and the way we were taken off of our land.”
Eric Sobotta, superintendent of Reardan-Edwall, testified in support of allowing school districts to work with local tribes for an exception to using native imagery, when the bill was before the legislature. He says the district has been discussing the issue with the tribe and wants to support its Native students.
“Our partnership with the Spokane tribe is very positive and we have some amazing initiatives going on right now, and that’s not going to change because we had to change our mascot.”
Sobotta said the district has posted a survey to ask families and alumni what should be the new mascot and received more than 400 responses in the first 48 hours.
North Central in Spokane is also changing its mascot at the behest of current Native American students. The district has held a public forum, but has not yet released a survey for mascot ideas.