Kennewick schools seek tribal approval to avoid rebranding

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Two local high schools, Kennewick and Legacy, may need to rebrand by early 2022.

KENNEWICK, Washington – 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 went into effect in April 2021.

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

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 outreach to consult with the Yakama, Umatilla and Colville tribes in spring 2021 with the goal of maintaining the use of Native American imagery in its schools. Otherwise, each will undergo a rebranding by the start of the new year.

The KSD administration got staff from each school to consult with the Umatilla Tribe Program Director to discuss their newly established tribal program.

It comes after Washington State asked schools to implement the From time immemorial, tribal sovereignty in Washington State tribal program in local classes.

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Officials at Kamiakin and Legacy High School are awaiting approval or denial from neighboring tribes before setting their next steps. However, the Kennewick School District is putting in place a contingency plan in case they do not get approval from tribal groups in the area.

From early November, Kennewick Schools will be working on the formal re-branding process for their schools. However, their current mascots will remain in place if they receive clearance by the December 31, 2021 deadline set by Washington state law.

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