The cartoon-like depiction of a Chinook Native American, which was used as a high school sports and academic mascot, has received a respectful makeover that takes into account tribal culture and legacy.
For decades, Charlie Chinook has been the mascot of Kalama High School in Lewis County, Washington. Unfortunately, Charlie Chinook was designed at a time when mascots were simply copied from whatever baseball teams happened to be embroidering into their uniforms and pennants.
The original Charlie Chinook design was downright offensive; it was essentially a male tribal member doing a war dance and celebrating the taking of a scalp by means of tomahawk. Years ago, members of the community complained enough to remove the scalp, which was redrawn into an academic diploma. The debate over Charlie Chinook eventually resulted in doing away with the mascot completely, a move that left Kalama High School with diminished team spirit.
According to a recent article in the Lewis County Chronicle, a newspaper cartoonist and Chinook tribal member has been tasked to redesign the mascot so that it reflects the important Native American legacy of the people who have been living in that region of the United States for many centuries.
The new Charlie Chinook wears a cedar hat and ceremonial garb. He holds an oar that symbolizes the deep connection of the tribe to the waterways of Washington State. The Kalama High School students have done their research and given input into what their mascot should look like. In the end, the community has learned a valuable lesson.