Marysville school officials will wait until at least the first week of April to decide whether Marysville Pilchuck High School will keep their mascot.
Due to a state law passed last year, schools that used Native imagery either had to obtain permission from a local tribe to continue or to change their mascot.
Initially the Tulalip Tribes requested that the district move on from the Marysville Pilchuck High School’s ‘tomahawk’ imagery, however after one of the Tribes’ general council meetings last year a vote of the public caused the Tulalip Tribal Board to send a letter to rescind that request just before a mascot change was approved by the Marysville School Board.
The proposed new mascot for MPHS would be the Mountaineers.
School board officials were hoping to gain more time to discuss the issue but were also concerned that state funding to support a mascot change would be gone soon. That funding is now being reserved for Marysville.
“During our conversation with [State Superintendent of Public Instruction] Chris Reykdal we have been told we were going to have money set aside, the same money that we were going to be able to get on Dec. 31, because of the relationship we’re building right now,” said Marysville School Board President Paul Galovin at the Jan. 5 meeting.
The Tulalip Tribal Board is now requesting to discuss the issue further.
“What we’re wanting to ask the school board is for some time to start to setup some meetings to meet board to board and to understand all the perspectives that have come to the table,” said Tulalip Tribal Board member Misty Napeahi.
The Tulalip Tribes are having another general council meeting with the public in March and hope to reach a resolution there.
“We would prefer to bring the vote back to the members during the March meeting,” said Napeahi.
Napeahi noted that there is major caveat with the recent COVID outbreak and that meeting is not a certainty at this point.
“There’s a lot of division around this subject and we do think there is a better way if we work together,” she said.
“I’m happy that we have come to an understanding with the Tribes so that we can talk about it a lot more,” said School Board member Katie Jackson.
The initial Tulalip letter requesting change was initiated because of members of the Tulalip Youth Council who came and presented their arguments to the Tulalip Tribal Board.
Many Tulalip Tribal members support the mascot as well.
“We fought so hard to make sure that it was there,” said Don Hatch, a Tulalip Tribal member and former School Board member.
Members of the Tribes originally petitioned for Native representation in the form of a mascot when Marysville Pilchuck High School was formed.
Tulalip Tribal member Ray Sheldon Jr. said he felt that changing the mascot will not improve issues of Native discrimination.
“People will say they’re picked on and everything else. You know, I’m 64 and I’m still picked on as an Indian person,” he said.
“Even if they’re Mountaineers those kids are still going to be picked on that aren’t the color white,” said Sheldon.
Further complicating the issue is that the Tulalip Tribes’ second letter is likely not enough to meet the legislative requirements for MPHS to keep their mascot according to both the school district’s legal counsel and Tulalip officials.
“Because of the RCW and because of how the law is written you do need a resolution from us to move forward,” said Napeahi.
Hatch said at the meeting that he was frustrated by the legal semantics.
“Now we’re getting so technical that they’re saying ‘we need a different kind of letter,’” he said. “It’s almost a slap on the hand. You told us to write a letter and we wrote a letter."
The school district has also sent out a public survey to more than 2,400 community members and students.
Sixty-four percent disagreed with the mascot change, 10 percent were neutral and 26 percent supported the change.
At this point, however, state law still requires a change from the school district until they receive an official resolution from the Tulalip Tribes.
“We sent out a survey to see how the community feels about this change, although it’s important to note that it is only as relevant as the law allows,” said Marysville School District Superintendent Chris Pearson.