The Washington State Legislature passed HB 1356 through both chambers. If concurred and signed by the governor, the bill would ban the use of Native American names, symbols, and images in public school names, mascots, or logos. The language provides exceptions for schools on tribal lands, or schools near tribal lands who receive the approval from the nearest tribe.
Renton High School has a long history with its team name and mascot the “Indians”. The school was built on land owned by the Duwamish until 1911 and they have repeatedly come under scrutiny as the team name issue resurfaces. But, locals say it was adopted in inspiration of the last chief of the Duwamish tribe and Renton High School alumni, Henry Moses.
According to the Renton History Museum, Christina John, his widow, first pushed to keep the name in 1973 while a global movement for Native Americans and First Nations began requesting the removal of names and symbols which perpetuate stereotypes or other defamatory icons. Then again decades later, after a Washington State Board of Education resolution to all districts to review their mascots and symbols in 1993, Renton High School updated their logo to reflect a mascot with imagery inspired by Pacific Northwest tribes. The school also had its fight song lyrics updated to be less offensive.
While the Duwamish tribe has in recent history supported the name, the matters of this bill are further complicated by their federal recognition, which they are not. Superintendent Dr. Pattenaude with the Renton School District stated when asked that, if passed, the “legislation requires districts to work with the closest Federally-recognized tribe, which is the Muckleshoot.” This would seemingly require for the Renton School District, the Duwamish tribe, and Muckleshoot tribe to all come to an agreement to approve the team name and mascot, or federal recognition of the Duwamish tribe by the Biden administration.
The Renton School District has also had residents petition to change the name of Lindbergh High School while the nation continues grappling with the United States’ legacy of colonization, slavery, and white supremacy. The school takes name from Charles Lindbergh, who has been criticized for promoting eugenics, voicing anti-Semitic statements, and strongly opposing US intervention in WWII. Some have historically alleged he was a Nazi sympathizer, but others go so far to suggest he was one himself. Even President FDR is famously quoted saying, “I am absolutely convinced Lindbergh is a Nazi.”
The bill, HB 1356, was spearheaded by Representative Debra Lekanoff, the only Native American in the Washington State Legislature. It passed the House 92-5 and the Senate 40-9. The bill is expected to be concurred and signed and will likely have some kind of ramifications on Renton High School, but there is potential for approval. The timeline would not start until 2022, when the bill bans the purchase of items, like uniforms, with Native American representations lacking tribal approval.