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Thursday, June 26, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Issaquah picks Eagles as school's new mascot

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

Decades of unrest and a year of soul-searching ended quietly yesterday with a simple decision: Issaquah High School students will return to class this fall with a new nickname — the Eagles.

The unanimous vote by the Issaquah School Board was the last step in a controversial process to change the school's longtime mascot from the Indians to a name considered less offensive to Native Americans and less divisive to the community.

The city has the "ability now to understand the diversity, to understand the richness of the Native American community we share," said board member Jan Woldseth.

The new mascot will be seen in a few places this fall, including a large mural outside the gymnasium. New uniforms, stationery and other gear will be phased in over the next couple of years.

But the feathery eagle will no doubt be felt by a large number of students, residents and alumni who opposed the board's decision last year to drop the old mascot. The Snoqualmie Tribe also said it supported keeping the Indians name.

No members of the public spoke about the new mascot at yesterday's meeting, and attendance was not high. But Liam Shaw, an Issaquah High junior who served on the steering committee that chose the new mascot, said he had mixed emotions.

Shaw said he participated in a student walk-out protesting the board's decision last year and only joined the committee to have a say in the process.

"(The new mascot) is real, and we've changed," he said, "And I don't like it, but I'll do it."

"I would have liked to have graduated as an Indian," he added, "but it's just part of the process."

Shaw served on a 13-member committee of students, alumni and school employees, which began meeting this spring. Members said they wanted to respect the school's history while looking toward the future.

Their solution: include a likeness of a Northwest Native American alongside the eagle in the new logo. The old logo depicts a Plains Indian in full headdress, which was inaccurate to tribes of the region. The Snoqualmie Tribe approves of the new design, members said.

"What we ended up with is truly a win-win," said Principal Michael Gallagher. "It honors in a real rich way what our students want and our community wants."

The debate over the school's mascot goes back to at least the 1980s and echoes similar moves by schools around the country to ban mascots considered offensive to ethnic groups. The Seattle School District banned the use of American Indian or Alaska Native names as mascots last year, which ended the use of the nickname "Indians" at West Seattle High School.

Issaquah's new mascot was chosen earlier this month from a vote of 1,700 people, almost entirely students. Voters had six choices, including Ravens, Hawks, Falcons, Thunderbirds and Cougars, all with links to Native American history.

About 15 percent of voters wrote in "Indians" as their only choice, while 31 percent chose Eagles.

Ashley Bach: 206-464-2567 or abach@seattletimes.com

Copyright 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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