Kennewick schools seek approval from Native American tribes to avoid re-branding

Two local high schools—Kennewick and Legacy—may have to re-brand by the start of 2022.
Kamiakin High School, Kennewick

KENNEWICK, Wash. — Unless they receive formal approval from neighboring Native American tribes, two schools in Kennewick will be forced to change their beloved mascots following a law that was signed into effect in April 2021.

In April 2021, Governor Jay Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 1356, which was passed by the Washington State Legislature. This law prohibits the use of Native American imagery as public school logos or mascots beginning in January of 2022. Under the legislation, school districts are required to formally consult with the nearest federally recognized tribes to authorize the continued use of this imagery.

Kennewick is home to two schools that use Native American imagery in their mascots: Kamiakin High School (The Braves) and Legacy High School (The Thunderbird).

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The Kennewick School District began its outreach to consult with the Yakama, Umatilla, and Colville tribes in Spring 2021 in an effort to maintain the use of Native American imagery at its schools. Otherwise, each will be subject to a rebranding by the start of the new year.

KSD administration brought staff from each school to consult with the Director of Curriculum from the Umatilla Tribe to discuss their newly established tribal curriculum.

This comes after Washington state required schools to implement the Since Time Immemorial Tribal Sovereignty in Washington State tribal curriculum in local classrooms.

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Kamiakin and Legacy High School officials are awaiting approval or denial from neighboring tribes before establishing their next steps. However, the Kennewick School District is putting a contingency plan in place in the event that they are not granted approval from the region’s tribal groups.

Starting in early November, Kennewick Schools will work on the formal process of re-branding their schools. However, their current mascots will stay in place if they receive authorization prior to the December 31, 2021 deadline set by WA state law.

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