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Idaho tribe asks state to ban all Indian school mascots

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes say their use is racial misappropriation.
Credit: KTVB
KTVB file photo of the Boise High School Braves logo.

BOISE, Idaho — The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes are asking state lawmakers to stop Idaho public schools from using Native American mascots, saying their use is racial misappropriation.

The Idaho Statesman obtained the tribes' position paper through a public records request. The tribes submitted the paper to the state Board of Education last month asking the board, the state Legislature and Idaho Gov. Brad Little to ban the mascots.

"The non-Indian, Euro-American rationale of public schools and communities that using mascots such as Savages, Redskins or Indians 'honors' Indian people is grossly inaccurate," the tribes wrote. "The continued use of those names would only honor the non-Indian ideology created by dominant mainstream society, whose ancestors directly or indirectly killed, sold, removed or demoralized the original Indian residents."

The paper lists several schools that the tribes say use offensive names and mascots, including the Salmon and Salmon River Savages; the Pocatello, Preston, Buhl and Shoshone Indians and the Boise Braves.

Mike Keckler, a spokesman for the state board, would not comment because all board members have seen the letter, nor has the board discussed the matter. A spokeswoman for the Republican governor did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

RELATED: Idaho high school to change Redskins mascot after 90 years

Debates over Native American mascots and symbols have raged nationally and throughout Idaho. The Teton School District recently retired its "Redskins" mascot. Salmon High abandoned its Indian head logo in 2000 in the face of a lawsuit but retained the Savages nickname. Salmon River High in Riggins followed the next year fearing a similar lawsuit.

Leaders from the Nez Perce tribe asked Lewiston's Sacajawea Junior High to retire its Braves mascot and Nezperce High to retire its Indians mascot in 2014, but school officials refused.

Boise High School has stopped using a physical Native American mascot, changed its Indian head logo, no longer displays a costume war bonnet in its entrance and painted over a mural of a Native American that some found troubling. The school still uses a stylized arrowhead or a "B'' decorated with feathers for logos.

Boise High principal Robb Thompson said he sought input from the Shoshone-Bannock tribe this summer on the Braves mascot, and the two sides have held ongoing discussions.

"I feel we have the responsibility to do so," Thompson said, adding he wants to understand their perspective.

The Shoshone-Bannock's position paper says the state Board of Education has the opportunity to set an example, "and say no to bullying and racism at the state level. It is time they no longer remain silent on the issue."

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