LA CONNER — The La Conner School District mascot will remain the Braves.
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate gave permission earlier this month for the district to continue using the Braves as its mascot, but determined some of the imagery associated with the mascot needs to go.
The tribe’s permission was necessary after a state law was passed in April that bans the use of Native American names, symbols or images in public schools.
The law includes an exception for school districts such as La Conner, whose enrollment boundaries include what the law calls Indian Country. Those districts must get approval — in the form of an official resolution — from the governing bodies of their local tribes in order to continue use of Native American mascots, logos or names.
In its resolution, the Swinomish Senate approved the district’s continued use of the mascot, but said that some of the depictions of the mascot — the head of a Plains Indian with a feather headdress — must be changed.
“Educational institutions have had a practice of using Native American logos, mascots, and team names without consultation with or authorization by Native Americans,” the resolution reads. “The limited and sparse representation of Native Americans in the media and popular culture comprise a significant portion of what children learn about Native people and thereby impact their identity.”
The eight-member tribal Senate approved the resolution unanimously.
As a matter of procedure, the La Conner School Board adopted the tribe’s resolution Monday by a vote of 4-0, with board member Jeremy “J.J.” Wilbur, who is also a member of the tribal Senate, abstaining.
While the tribe’s decision will mean that some posters will need to be taken down and some sports team uniforms replaced, the biggest impact will be to the floor of the high school gym, which has the feather headdress-clad logo emblazoned in its center.
The law provides funding for districts to make changes. The La Conner School District will now begin the process of figuring out how access that funding, Superintendent Will Nelson said.
The district and the tribe will work collaboratively to replace the images with one more appropriate to the Coast Salish people, a project that will likely be spearheaded by the district’s students.