Kennewick SD board meeting to change Legacy, Endeavor HS mascot under WA law

KENNEWICK, Wash. — The Kennewick School District board met Wednesday night to decide on a new mascot for the Legacy and Endeavor high schools following the new guidelines under Washington state law.

Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1356 into effect back in April, banning the use of Native American imagery as public school mascots starting in January 2022.

However, school districts are allowed to bypass this rule so long as the nearest federally-recognized tribe gives a school authorization to retain its mascot.

The current mascot for Legacy and Endeavor is the “Thunderbird” which one local native member says doesn’t belong.

READ: ‘It’s about respect;’ Local tribe members react to new school ban

“Native culture, native people, and our symbols aren’t something like a costume that can be taken on and off,” said Malena Pinkham with the Tri-City InterTribal Organization. “The use of native mascots are usually inaccurate stereotypes that are then absorbed by the student body, faculty, and then the community.”

Pinkham said this then becomes “the primary source of information” people have about the native culture.

“It’s not spreading the kind of information or honor that our cultures deserve,” Pinkham said.

A representative from the Yakama Nation Tribal Council informed the school district that it doesn’t possess the authority to clear the see of the Thunderbird mascot and name since that imagery is connected to coastal tribes.

KSD reached out to the community for new mascot name ideas and suggestions for the mascot naming committee who presented them to the board Wednesday.

According to board policy, the purpose of the committee is “to submit to the School Board a list of – not less than three or more than five – names for the new school and mascot. The list shall identify each school name and mascot and briefly state why the Committee nominated each school name and mascot.”

The committee had to follow these policy guidelines here:

1. Each school name shall be known to and be significant to the residents of the
District.
2. The school names submitted shall not conflict with the names of others schools in
the District or surrounding districts.
3. The use of names of living persons shall be avoided unless the circumstances
warrant an exception. Generally, if facilities are to be named after persons, it
should only be after that person has been deceased for at least five years.
4. Mascots shall reflect a positive school image with an emphasis on expression of
school unity and pride.

“Natural disasters, like tornadoes, animals, things like that are great mascots like that’s the purpose of a mascot is to create good feeling, pull everybody together, make everybody feel like they’re a part of it,” Pinkham said. “You just can’t accomplish that by using any culture much less native people as your mascot.”

You can view the full board policy here and here.

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