In spring 2012, after years of research and discussion, the Oregon State Board of Education passed a regulation that prohibits Oregon public schools from using Native Americans as mascots after July 1, 2017. Most schools and communities believe they are respectfully honoring Native Americans through the use of these mascots and feel they are being unfairly burdened with this mandate. The situation offers a teachable moment not only for the dozens of schools involved, but for the state and the nation as a whole about the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and the need for reconciliation between settler and indigenous communities. Yet, the Oregon Department of Education has provided no funding or technical training for this process and the impacted communities have nowhere to turn for guidance. The Oregon Indian Education Association (OIEA) invited me to work with the affected communities, Oregon tribes and Native American community groups to develop community forums and training materials to assist the school districts that must change. This action research project will begin in summer 2013 and continue through 2017.
In summer 2013, I will be working in collaboration with OIEA members to carry out an initial three-step research plan. First will be community mapping projects in three selected school districts, as a means of taking the pulse of community members. These will be listening exercises to learn where community leaders, students, athletes, and others are in terms of the mascot issue. The second step will be a report based on the listening sessions, which will cull best practices from the field research as well as from secondary research on school districts that have successfully made mascot changes in the past in Oregon and other states. The third step will be to conduct an activity-based workshop that presents these best practices to school district representatives. This third step is likely to be scheduled for fall 2013 in Salem.
I am looking for colleagues whose research might intersect with any of the issues embedded in this project (racial stereotyping, school and community change, historical memory and amnesia, settler/indigenous relations) or with the methodology of ethnographic action research. In addition, I welcome colleagues as direct partners in the Mascot Project. In addition to LARC, we will likely receive external support for the research in 2013 and beyond. The mascot project is related to a larger Oregon Tribal Histories and Sovereignty Curriculum Design Project supported by the Gates Foundation.