Editorial: It’s sad to see Warrior go, but the qualities he represents remain

At the risk of sounding overly sentimental, we’re a bit sad to see the Warrior go.

Of course, Lebanon High School Warriors aren’t changing their name, as reported at the tail end of our report on the School Board’s monthly meeting that starts on page 1.

Thankfully, that term is sufficiently amorphous that it will still fly in an era when political correctness creates a minefield of sensitivities in public life. But, as anyone who has recently seen the movie “Wonder Woman”  can attest, warriors can come in all shapes and sizes – and sexes.

In Oregon, though, they can’t come with feather headdresses, thanks to a Board of Education that, since it apparently can’t solve the state’s real school problems (which have left the state ranked in the  bottom third nationally in recent years), focuses on more peripheral issues.

The fact is, the Native American warrior at one time represented very positive attributes: strength, courage, boldness, skill, toughness, etc. – qualities that young men and women were encouraged to emulate.

When a school or other organization appropriates the name “Warrior” or “Chiefs” or “Indians” or some such term, it’s clearly in recognition of such qualities.

The Irish, like Native Americans, have experienced plenty of tribulations as a people group, but they haven’t been included in this purge. And of course, neither have Saxons, Vikings, Crusaders, Friars and other people groups represented on the uniforms of sports teams in the United States.

A real issue here is local control in schools.

Local Rep. Sherrie Sprenger made a commendable effort to keep these decisions local, where they should be centered, rather than in Salem. She introduced a bill, approved by the Legislature in 2016, that allowed local school districts to work out agreements with local tribes.

Great solution. But the problem was, it still had be signed off by the officials in Salem and Board of Education members tipped their cards pretty well when they banned the mascots in the first place.

In mid-March of this year, according to an Oregon Public Broadcasting report, at least seven of the state’s schools with Native American mascots were working with local tribes to cut a deal by a July 1, 2017 deadline.

Down the road, Mohawk High School decided to drop its Indian mascot, a little over half of the more than 100 respondents to a district survey voting to opt for a new name.

The fact is, Grande Ronde tribal members were willing to work with Lebanon on this, as an educational opportunity.

We get that our local district officials saw the handwriting on the wall here and decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  But maybe they should have. Many Lebanon residents hold the Warrior legacy dear.

We appreciate their decision to preserve the sculpture that adorns the wall of the gym because, if anything, it represents many of the positive attributes noted above, which, we hope, persist as goals for our youth.