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Concerns raised over Native school mascots
News, Schools
Concerns raised over Native school mascots

The Nezperce Joint School District #302 has received a letter from Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Silas Whitman requesting that the district consider changing its mascot of "Indians." Meanwhile, the NPTEC also wrote a letter of support for a Lapwai woman's request that Sacajawea Junior High School's mascot be changed from "Braves."


According to Nezperce Superintendent Doug Flaming, the district has started the discussion related to the request to change the mascot. "Input from students, patrons and community leaders will be obtained to assist with the decision making. Communication with the Tribe will be a vital part of the decision making process," he says.


Flaming says that the district values its relationship with the Tribe and the partnerships through grants and scholarships that the district has had with the Tribe that have benefited the children in our community. "The request will be considered and discussed at length before a final decision is made related to the request."


Lewiston School District No. 1 Superintendent Robert Donaldson told KXLY that since the request/concern was brought up by Alaina Capoeman during a public comment portion during last night's school board meeting, they did not discuss it as a board. "The board is not insensitive to the concerns that are brought up," he says, adding that there was a good possibility that they will put it on an agenda to discuss in the future.


Capoeman, who is a citizen of the Quinault Nation, has a 13-year-old son who attends Sacajawea Junior High School. She says when she was younger, spending a year of high school in Washington, D.C. and the NFL's Washington Redskins football team made an impression on her about the negative impact of Native American mascots.


"It is important to me that my children grow up with their cultures and practice their traditions. Some of the images the Sacajawea Junior High use are stereotypes and offended me. Teenagers struggle with identity and self image, native students more so especially when they attend predominantly caucasian schools," Capoeman says.


Capoeman started looking into how the the junior high chose the mascot and the history of the school. "It looked to me like they wanted to be appropriate and do the right thing," she says in regard to the mascot being changed in the 1970's from "Savages."


But she wants the school district to change the current mascot of "Braves."


"I spoke to the Nez Perce Tribe Human Resources sub-committee asking them for a letter of support. They agreed and the full Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee voted to also sent one to the Nezperce School District asking them to retire their "Indian's" mascot, logo and behaviors associated with the mascot. Next I presented to the YWCA board of directors, they sent a letter of support. I contacted a couple faith based leaders and the Rev'd Gretchen Rehberg of The Episcopal Church of the Nativity wrote a letter to the school board. Pastor Jack Pea of the Methodist Church in Lapwai is also supportive of my efforts," she says.


Capoeman says she is currently working with the art teacher, the principal, and a Nez Perce artist to re-do the mural in the hallway at Sacajawea Junior High School.

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