A Marysville Pilchuck High School football player sports a spear on his helmet during a game in 2019. Two Marysville schools must drop their Native American mascots by the end of the next school year. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

A Marysville Pilchuck High School football player sports a spear on his helmet during a game in 2019. Two Marysville schools must drop their Native American mascots by the end of the next school year. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Native American mascots to be discontinued in Marysville

A new state law, which bans the use of Native American mascots by schools, takes effect July 25.

MARYSVILLE — Two Marysville schools must drop their Native American mascots by the end of the next school year, according to a district announcement made Tuesday.

Tulalip Tribes leadership requested the change in line with a new state law that bans the use of Native American cultural symbols as school mascots. House Bill 1356, signed into law earlier this year by Gov. Jay Inslee, allows tribes to veto mascots they deem “inappropriate” if they belong to schools with enrollment boundaries on tribal reservation or trust lands. The bill’s purpose is to reclaim the regalia and other cultural objects important to Native American heritage.

Marysville Pilchuck High School must say goodbye to its long-controversial mascot, the Tomahawks. Totem Middle School’s mascot, the Thunderbirds, will also be dropped.

Students, families, staff and community members will be included in the mascot selection processes, said district spokesperson Jodi Runyon, and a third party will be brought in to help make the change.

The two mascots must be phased out by Dec. 31. Both schools will keep their names, according to the district.

The district memo says that the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors’ request seeks to eliminate “potentially racially derogatory or discriminatory school mascots, logos, or team names in public schools that are contradictory to the schools’ and school district’s mission of providing an equal education to all.”

State Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, was the bill’s main sponsor. She was supported by co-sponsors including Reps. April Berg, D-Mill Creek; John Lovick, D-Mill Creek; and Lauren Davis, D-Shoreline. Lekanoff, who is the House’s only current Native American lawmaker, is an Alaskan native of Tlingit and Aleut heritage.

The new law is the first time the state has adopted a legal position on the issue of Native American mascots in public schools. It takes effect July 25.

In 1993, the Washington State Board of Education adopted a resolution calling on school districts to discontinue the use of certain mascots that could be considered insensitive to Native Americans.

The state board reaffirmed its stance in a 2012 resolution, citing an American Psychological Association position that links the use of Native American mascots to negative student mental health and self-esteem.

In 2012, Marysville Pilchuck and the Tulalip Tribes discussed doing away with the Tomahawks name in response to that resolution, but decided against making the change.

As of Tuesday, Marysville school leaders had yet to iron out details surrounding the upcoming change.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen

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