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Marcola School DistrictThe Marcola School District’s mascot currently features war paint, feathers and beads.

Oregon teacher claims district’s mascot violates state rules

EUGENE — An Oregon teacher has filed a complaint claiming a school district’s new mascot is racist and violates rules prohibiting the use of Native American-themed images.

The Marcola School District dropped its “Mohawk Indians” mascot in 2016 and later replaced it with the mustangs, the Register-Guard reported Tuesday.

In the complaint filed with the Oregon Department of Education, Marcola fifth-grade teacher John Etheredge said the horse is “adorned with war paint, feathers, beads and a faux ‘Mohawk’-style mane.” He claimed the district kept the same Native American images and just replaced the human with a horse.

State rules prohibit public schools from using Native American mascots. The district’s new mascot uses imagery that violates those rules, Etheredge said. Displays of the mascot are on the district’s website, in the Mohawk High School gym and on district stationery.

“I care about my students and it sends a horribly racist message to them,” Etheredge said. “I want my students to be able to wholeheartedly embrace their mascot without reservations. They deserve that, and the mascot carries all sorts of racist things.”

Marcola Superintendent Bill Watkins said he has spoken with the education department and explained that the imagery is not tied to a single group of people.

“I’ve explained to the ODE that the symbols we use with the mascot have been used in cultures all over the world, not just with Native Americans,” Watkins said. “And they agree with it. It shouldn’t make any difference at all, whether we were the Indians or not, we have a right to use those symbols and we’re creating an argument that doesn’t need to be.”

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