The Toledo School District announced preliminary rebranding plans this week as Washington state is poised to ban public schools’ “inappropriate use” of Native American mascots and imagery.
Toledo has been the home of the “Indians” for a century, and uses a dreamcatcher logo. A “chief wahoo” caricature, with bright red skin, was recently removed from a Toledo sports field, but still appears on some sports uniforms.
On Facebook, the district noted the “strong emotions” likely to arise in the community, including “denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.”
The bill enjoyed wide bipartisan support, with only eight members of the House voting against its passage this week. All four House members representing parts of Lewis County — Reps. Peter Abbarno, Ed Orcutt, Jim Walsh and Joel McEntire — voted in favor of the bill, which was sponsored by the Legislature’s only Native American member, Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow.
During public testimony, the proposal also received support from tribal members across the state as well as the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), the state agency overseeing public K-12 education. Washington’s Board of Education had recommended that Native mascots be eliminated twice before, in 1993 and 2012.
On Thursday, the Toledo School District announced it would decide on a new name and mascot “based on input from the community,” and that artwork and historical artifacts throughout the district would not be impacted. That includes the oil painting of David Ike that hangs in the high school. Ike was a beloved Toledo sports fan and a member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.
“Remington bronzes will be displayed and the Cowlitz Tribe is currently working on a button blanket to be donated to the school upon its opening,” Superintendent Chris Rust said in a prepared statement. “There are many ways to honor the Cowlitz people that do not include a mascot. Ceremony, artwork, music, language, culture, dance and history are all ways for us to connect with the Cowlitz people.”
The district’s press release also referenced the American Psychological Association’s finding that the use of such mascots has negative impacts on Indigenous students. The district plans to photograph “many of the most prominent and memorable images around our campuses” to donate to the historical society.
Dozens of schools across the state still have Native-themed names, mascots or imagery, including several in Southwest Washington.
In Rochester, a non-Native totem pole with caricatures of athletes sits in the high school’s gym, and spear-and-feather logos are spread across the district. A headdress logo is still on some equipment.