Timeline: Debate over Marysville Pilchuck’s Tomahawks nickname

As officials and the Tulalip Tribes consider changing it, a review of the state law and student unease that got us here.

The cover of the 1988 Marysville Pilchuck High School yearbook.

The cover of the 1988 Marysville Pilchuck High School yearbook.

MARYSVILLE — As the Marysville School District and the Tulalip Tribes considered whether to change Marysville Pilchuck High School’s Tomahawks nickname to something else, the Daily Herald staff combed through our archive to compile a timeline of notable events surrounding the mascot discussion.

1970: Marysville Pilchuck High School opens.

1993: The Washington State Board of Education adopts a resolution calling on school districts to discontinue the use of certain mascots that could be considered insensitive to Native Americans. Marysville Pilchuck decides to leave its mascot unchanged.

1997: Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood drops the Chiefs nickname that represented the student body for 34 years. After months of debate, the school rebranded as the Mavericks.

2002: At the urging of an American Indian student at Marysville Pilchuck, the district bans chanting that accompanied the “Tomahawk chop” gesture. Critics argued that it degraded and trivialized sacred Native American traditions.

2004: As some students continue to do the chant, the district decides to ban the “Tomahawk chop” gesture altogether.

2012: The state board reaffirms its 1993 stance with a new resolution. In response, Marysville Pilchuck and the Tulalip Tribes discuss doing away with the Tomahawks name. By this point, the school has banned face paint and any Indian regalia at games. But it decides against a name change.

April 26, 2021: State House Bill 1356 is signed into law. It prohibits the inappropriate use of Native-American names, symbols or images as public school mascots, logos or team names — unless local tribes approve.

June 22, 2021: The Marysville district announces that the Tulalip Tribes leadership has requested that Marysville Pilchuck change its nickname, along with that of Totem Middle School, the Thunderbirds. The two nicknames must be phased out by Dec. 31.

Dec. 7, 2021: The Marysville School District announces it has received a letter from the Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors announcing that tribal members had voted to withdraw the request to change the Tomahawk nickname.

Additional Herald coverage

Tulalip Tribes flag to fly at Marysville schools, as mascots change (Nov. 5, 2021)

Should Marysville Pilchuck High drop the name ‘Tomahawks’? (March 3, 2021)

Marysville schools may rethink Tomahawk mascot (Oct. 6, 2012)

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