Toledo school gets rid of controversial Indian mascot, Tomahawk Chop cheer

Toledo High School is getting rid of its controversial Indian mascot costume and Tomahawk Chop cheer.

“It became clear to me that there was some energy with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe around making some changes,” said Toledo School District Superintendent Chris Rust.

The Toledo School Board recently voted to get rid of the cheer and the school’s mascot costume after the Cowlitz Indian Tribe weighed in.

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Some feel the costume is offensive. Rust said a tribal school recently made complaints to the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

The Tomahawk Chop is a cheer made popular by Florida State University fans. It’s been used at Toledo High School sporting events for years.

Students are torn.

“I was pretty disappointed about the Indian mascot because I’m a cheerleader and the mascot means a lot to me,” said junior Katie Bowen.

“For me, personally, I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal or a problem, and I completely understand where the tribe is coming from,” said senior Rylee Rae Birdwell.

Rust said the tribe didn’t have a stance on Chief Wahoo or the totem pole in front of the high school, so both of those will remain. The school will also keep its dreamcatcher logo and Indians team name, which is what they’ve gone by for nearly 100 years, and both were endorsed by tribal members.

“There’s a lot of controversy and, ‘Oh my goodness, what’s going to happen?’ It’s just a cheer and it’s a costume. We are still the Indians. We are still honoring the tribe, which is why people told me we are the Indians, to honor ndigenous peoples,” said Rust.

KIRO 7 spoke with Cowlitz Indian Tribe chairman William Iyall. He said tribal members appreciate the changes the school board made.

“We have a tremendous partnership with Toledo schools. We want to be that close moving forward,” said Iyall.

He said the tribe wants to help Toledo High School with the development of its new school.