Mascot Change Process: MPHS and Totem Middle School


House Bill 1356

MSD Background Information - June 2021

Mascot Process Update - October 2021

Choosing New Mascots:
A Community-Driven Process

Legacy work like this is done best and is most enduring when the community leads the way, so committee members are taking charge of each phase of the work. We are using a two-tiered approach, with a Steering Committee and larger Mascot Committee for each school, each composed of students, parents and family, staff, and community members representing a broad cross-section of the schools’ communities. 

A lot of work is done with small teams of committee members who report back to the larger groups. To keep all these activities coordinated and moving forward, the district hired a pair of experienced facilitators to support the committees.


Poster created by MPHS student, Gianna Frank

Marysville Pilchuck High School (MPHS) and Totem Middle School are Selecting New Mascots

Why? When? And how will the decisions be made?

Dozens of school districts across Washington State are doing this work right now. Across the country, hundreds of Native mascots have been retired this year. 

There’s already so much going on. Why are we doing this now?

The Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1356, which was signed into law this summer. The new law prohibits the use of Native American names, symbols, or images as school mascots, logos, or team names and sets out clear roles for schools and local Tribes related to making changes. The legislature set a deadline for identifying and approving new names or mascots by the end of this calendar year, with time to implement changes over the rest of this school year. Importantly, the state is also providing funding to pay for the costs associated with changing school signage, uniforms, and other mascot-identified equipment.

For school districts like Marysville that serve communities containing Tribal reservation or trust lands, the bill lays out clear roles for both the school district and the local Tribe.

  • The Tribe is tasked with the authority to determine whether the schools should keep or retire the Native names and images. 

  • It is the district's job to work with the community to choose a new mascot.

The Marysville School District is aware that the Tulalip community is engaged in ongoing conversation about the decision made earlier to retire the Totem MS Thunderbird and MPHS Tomahawk mascots and authorize Totem MS to keep its name. At this time, given the deadlines involved, the district must continue to move forward as if the current decision will stand. School district leaders are deeply respectful of the separation of roles set forth in HB 1356, and will continue to work closely with the Tribe to follow their guidance on this issue.

What's driving this social momentum away from Native mascots? 

Interestingly, this is not being driven by politicians or by society’s general opinion of the idea (which remains mixed, particularly among older generations). It is being driven by science. Marysville graduate, nationally respected researcher, and Tulalip member Dr. Stephanie Fryberg noted that there has been no evidence in any study to date that showed any positive effects associated with the use of Native mascots. Evidence is clear and growing, however, about the harmful effects of using stereotyped caricatures of Native imagery in this way. It is this mounting evidence that is leading policy makers and educators to retire Native mascots.

What does the research show?

Research has shown that 65% of Native youth were highly offended by the Washington NFL team's former mascot and a majority are opposed to the use of Native mascots. Native American peoples who are most highly identified with being Native American, as well as Native youth, are the people who are most opposed to the use of Native mascots.

What effects do Native mascots have on students? 

In scientifically valid studies, the use of Native mascots was confirmed to have many harmful effects. Perhaps most importantly, it increases stress, depression, and suicide ideation among young adults (LaRocque, et al., 2011). Ethnic identity did not buffer these effects.

The use of Native mascots also increases stereotyping & discrimination against Native Americans (Gonzalez, 2005; Kraus et al, 2019) and contributes to the minimization of Natives' experiences with racism (Neville et al, 2011). Native mascots also increase stereotyping and discrimination against other students of color (Kim-Prieto, 2010)

Exposure to Native mascots also increases non-Natives' view that Natives are:

  • Warlike (Angle et al, 2017, Study 1)

  • Primitive (Angle et al, 2017, Study 2)

  • Less noble/honorable (Angle et al, 2017, Study 3)

  • More aggressive (Burkeley et al, 2017)

  • Less academically capable (Freng & Willis-Esqueda, 2011)

  • NOTABLY: Study participants did not distinguish how they feel about Native mascots from how they feel about Native Peoples. Chaney et al (2011)

Taking on the issue of Native erasure:
Are there better ways to ensure Natives are honored and represented?

Some who are concerned about retiring Native mascots have brought up the issue of Native erasure. There is reason to be mindful of this concern. Shocking research has shown that nearly half of Americans think that Native Americans don't exist anymore -- that Native peoples are only part of distant history or some sort of romanticized past. 

When mascots using Native imagery are retired, the image being erased was a false and harmful “idea” or caricature of Native peoples to begin with. Even when the imagery is not overtly negative or stereotypical in nature, the research still shows negative effects for students and Native communities. Retiring Native mascots makes way for more accurate, modern, honoring, and inspiring Native representation. 

Marysville Schools are committed to doubling down on this important work through things like expanding students’ opportunities to learn Lushootseed, expanding the opportunities to learn skills that have both historic and modern value such as boat building and navigation, as well as investing in accurate history curriculum and implementing the free “Since Time Immemorial” curriculum provided by Washington State. There are incredible opportunities that come with this process. As we work together to identify new mascots, we are learning more about our rich local history and believe that it will deepen our collective pride in who we are as a community.


Opportunities abound!
Steering Committee meetings are scheduled shortly after school to make it easier for staff and students to attend. Mascot Committee meetings are held Monday evenings to support family and community involvement. Attendance has been variable, with between 10 to 25 joining each time. More people are involved in the sub-committee activities, and hundreds of students, family and community members have shared their thoughts through surveys. Please reach out to either the Totem Principal ( or MPHS Principal ( if you would like to be involved in this work.

The Totem Middle School committees got started first and have done an excellent job of laying a strong foundation for this process. The MPHS committees are underway and are able to move more quickly because Totem’s work can serve as a starting point.

Learn more about each school's process HERE!


Oct 25 - 29: Students will narrow the long list of possibilities to a Top Ten

Nov. 1: Mascot Committee will narrow the Top Ten to a list of 3 Finalists

Nov. 3: Initial presentation to the school board; seeking initial approval of the finalists

Nov. 4 - 11: Students and families will weigh in on the pros & cons of the finalists via survey

Nov. 15: Committee will forward the choice to the Marysville School Board for final approval

Early Dec.: School Board approves the new mascot

Spring 2022: Student Graphic Art Committee to lead the design process

June 2022:The new mascot images will be unveiled!


Oct. 25: Students will generate a list of possibilities through a survey (150+ responses so far)
Oct. 27: Principal Tinsley will work with students and others to do initial vetting of list
Oct. 30: Community input opportunity on mascot characteristics

Nov. 1: Mascot Committee will narrow the list of possibilities to a short list of 5-10

Nov. 1 - Student Survey on Characteristics during 2nd period

Nov. 3: Initial presentation of short list to the school board 

Nov. 8: Mascot Committee will review the pros & cons of each idea 

Nov. 8-12: Students will participate in focus groups to identify pros/cons of each idea

Nov. 15: Mascot Committee narrows possibilities list down to 3-5

Nov. 16-19: Students rate the final list using a Likert scale of 1-5

Nov. 22: Mascot Committee will determine the school’s choice and forward it to the Marysville School Board for final approval at their December meeting

Dec. 1: School Board presentation and approval the new mascot

Spring 2022: Graphic Art Committee consisting of students, families, community members and staff will lead the design process with assistance from a graphic artist

By June 2022: The new mascot images will be unveiled!

Mascot Committees


The Steering Committees were convened first and their role is to:

  • identify and invite broad representation,

  • establish a timeline and meetings schedule,

  • determine priorities for community engagement and assign designated
    representatives / liaisons to appropriate groups within the community, and

  • be active participants in their school’s larger Mascot Committee.

    The Mascot Committees are larger groups. Their role is to:

  • identify values and selection criteria,

  • brainstorm and research mascot ideas,

  • decide how to gather feedback,

  • engage with students and the community to narrow the options,

  • present a recommendation to the school board for consideration and approval, and

  • work with school graphic design programs and/or a professional graphic designer to develop mascot imagery (completed by the end of the 20-21 school year).