School board seeks input on Roseburg Indians mascot

Alumni Kalli Albertus told KEZI 9 News that the school board’s decision to collect feedback was a long time coming.

Posted: Feb 15, 2021 6:58 PM

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- The debate surrounding the Roseburg High School Indians mascot continues.

On Monday, the Roseburg school board opened an online forum that asks if the Roseburg Indians mascot should be respectfully retired. The forum is currently open to the entire community.

A 2016 Roseburg High alumni, Kalli Albertus, told KEZI 9 News that the school board’s decision to collect feedback was a long time coming. Since last year, she has been working with a group of alumni to get the mascot’s name changed.

RELATED: COMMUNITY MEMBERS PUSH FOR A RENAMING OF THE ROSEBURG HIGH'S MASCOT

They claim that the mascot is disrespectful and insensitive to Native American culture.

“It’s the you know, dark skin, native that has arrows in their heads living in tepees -- these century-old stereotypes that simply do not reflect who we are today,” said Albertus.

The group has been communicating with the school board and raising awareness over social media. They also have an online petition that has more than 6,000 signatures as of Monday morning.

Albertus said this is the first step in making sure everyone feels welcome in the Roseburg community.

“Roseburg prides themselves on all these traditions, but that’s because it hasn’t changed,” she said.

However, not all alumni are happy with the movement.

A 2010 alumni, Edward Swindell, told KEZI 9 News that calling himself a “Roseburg Indian” is something he’s always cherished, and he knows many people in the community feel the same.

“You got generations there that are proud to be a Roseburg High School Indian,” said Swindell.

Knowing how much the mascot means the community, Swindell said he’s hopeful the decision to change the name doesn’t go through.

“Everyone’s always going to feel that sense of pride, you can change the name all you want,” he said.

In 2012, the Oregon Department of Education banned all schools from using Native American names or symbols as mascots.

However, Roseburg Public Schools made an agreement with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians to continue to use the name under certain guidelines, like implementing history of the tribe in district curriculum.

“We need to get, you know, members of the community, staff from Roseburg High School, maybe get leadership members involved,” said Albertus. “Then have them start brainstorming what will this mascot be.”

The feedback form will be open until next Monday.

The school board has created a subcommittee to lead the potential transition. They will review the results and present them to the school board at next Wednesday’s meeting.

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