NESPELEM - Colville High School Principal Kevin Knight announced in a meeting with the Colville Business Council’s Education and Employment Committee, May 18, the school would like to work with the Colville Tribes in changing their mascot in response to state HB-1356, new state legislation that prohibits public schools from using tribal imagery.
“As an educator, I feel that if our mascot is offensive - if it is offending one person, one student or one kid - we need to change it,”said Knight. “We want to work with you to make sure we are on the same page as we do that.”
Gov. Jay Inslee signed the new legislation into law, April 26, prohibiting public schools across the state from using Native American names, symbols or images as school mascots, logos or team names after Jan. 1, 2022.
An exception written into the legislation allows public schools located within, or with enrollment boundaries that include a portion of “Indian Country” within the state if that school consults with and is approved by the applicable tribe or tribes, but Knight noted the school was ready to change.
“I’ve lived in Colville my entire life,” said Knight. “My parents graduated from Colville High School. My wife and I graduated from Colville High School and all my kids graduated from Colville High School. We think as a family, even though we had the same mascot, it is time for a change. We are ready to do that.”
Knight further apologized to the CBC that the school failed to follow a request in 1997 when the school received a request from the tribe to change their mascot following passage of a tribal resolution aimed at protecting tribal identity.
That resolution stated in part, “the Colville Business Council … authorizes an appropriate effort to begin the process to rename various landmarks and school mascots within our usual, customary and traditional areas which are distinctly derogatory and perpetuating negative stereotypes which diminish native self-identity as depicted in the short list of examples: Squaw Mountain in the Nespelem area; Squaw Creek in the Little Pend Orielle Lake area of Stevens County; school mascot names such as renegades, Indians (Colville High School); savages (Colville Junior High), braves, redskins, etc., and professional sports teams who also use such references - all done without authentic credit to the native community for its inherent heritage but to exploit natives in the tradition of perpetuating institutional racism in America.”
“As you know, we have 12 different tribes, Colville being one of them. I’m Colville so I appreciate the name change,” said Erickson. “I find it offensive myself, not simply for the namesake but for stuff associated with it that goes on, head dresses, tomahawk chops, chanting. That stuff all goes on, so I appreciate it.”
While she noted she appreciated the school district’s intention to change the mascot, CBC member Norma Sanchez called for more action from the administration.
“I think we need to take it one step further,”said CBC member Norma Sanchez. “The name change is the first step, but if you’re still not teaching the history of the colonization and the removal then people don’t understand why it affects us, why we think it is offensive that you people live where our people were moved out of.”
Superintendent Pete Louis further noted the school is looking forward to working with the Colville Tribes on land acknowledgement and curriculum regarding tribal history.
Knight stated the school intends to survey the community and the student body on a new mascot.