Warrior mascot up for debate: 'You can degrade, or you can honor'

Warrior mascot up for debate: 'You can degrade, or you can honor'

LEBANON, Ore. -- Sixteen public schools in Oregon with Native American mascots may have to change their mascots.

The State Board of Education will be meeting on Thursday to discuss whether or not to continue to allow Native American logos and mascots for schools.

The Lebanon High School Warriors are one of those schools for discussion.

Rob Allen is the athletic director at Lebanon High School, and he said he's never received a complaint about their mascot in his 31 years at the school. Allen said the warrior is a sense of school and community pride, but he said they want to work with those who may oppose the warrior mascot.  

"If we need to be educated more, then we're open to that. We want to be sensitive to those feelings," said Allen. "If the Native Americans feel this way as a majority, I think we need to take care of this and make it right. If it is a small group that feels this way, we need to understand their feelings and see what we can do about it."

Kevin Johnson is the boys basketball coach at Lebanon High School. He is Native American from the Choktaw Tribe from Oklahoma. He said Native American mascots are a two-fold issue.

"You can degrade, or you can honor," Johnson said. "Well, in our circumstances, and most tribal histories, the warrior is like the knight. A knight being the person that’s the protector of the people, the protector of the king."

Johnson said mascots were a huge issueissue 10 to 15 years ago in the United States on all levels, from professional sports to high school to elementary school mascots because, Johnson said, they were somewhat degrading to many native people.

"I think as time has progressed, those have gone away as people have become more sensitive to other cultures and in particular our native cultures," said Johnson.

Johnson said Lebanon High School honors the warrior with pride and education.

"Our school, our community does such a tremendous job in honoring and being culturally aware. We don’t have the tomahawk chop. We don’t have the headdress. We don’t do those things here," he said.

If the Lebanon Warriors have to change their mascot, it may come with a hefty price tag.

"I sat down for a few hours to figure it out. About $200,000 would be needed to replace the things that need to be replaced," said Allen.

This includes a $25,000 metal sculpture of their warrior mascot in front of the school, signs and banners throughout campus, their gymnasium floor with the mascot, and more.