Bill would require schools with Native American mascots to modify mascot or face $25,000 monthly fine

DENVER, CO – A bill making its way through the Colorado legislature would require Colorado schools to change their Native American mascots or face severe financial penalties. 

Democratic State Senator Jessie Danielson is sponsoring Senate Bill 21-116, which:

“prohibits the use of American Indian mascots (mascots) by public schools, including charter and institute charter schools, and public institutions of higher education (school) as of June 1, 2022. 

“The bill imposes a fine of $25,000 per month for each month that a school continues to use a mascot after such date, payable to the state education fund.”

Danielson’s bill defines “mascot” as:

“ A name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name for the school.”

Describing American Indian mascots as “derogatory,” the text of the bill goes on to explain that the mascots create “an unsafe learning environment” for American Indian students due to their negative effects on those students’ mental health, as well as “promoting bullying of American Indian students.”

Furthermore, the bill declares that the American Indian mascots show inaccurate portrayals of American Indian culture and teach non-American Indian children that “it is acceptable to participate in culturally abusive and prejudicial behaviors.”

The committee has passed amendments that allow schools to retain such mascots if they have, or will have, an agreement with a local tribe.

Arapahoe High School in Centennial, CO, for instance, has a relationship with the Arapaho Nation from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. 

The Arapaho Nation has endorsed the school’s “Arapahoe Warrior” logo, and the original artwork was created by Wilbur Antelope, a Northern Arapaho artist.

As such, the Arapahoe High School Warriors will be exempted from making changes.

According to Senator Danielson, nearly two dozen schools in Colorado are continuing to use Native American mascots, such as the Eaton Fightin’ Reds, the Lamar Savages, or the aforementioned Arapahoe Warriors.

Cheyenne Mountain High School, in the shadow of Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, and Loveland High School in Loveland both discontinued their “Indians” logo recently.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, efforts to remove Native American imagery from schools accompanied the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The movement progressed in 2005, when the NCAA instructed colleges to remove “‘hostile or abusive’ mascots and imagery in college-level sports.”  Professional sports also became involved, with the movement ultimately succeeding in removing the “Redskins” mascot from Washington in July 2020.

The legislative push in Colorado to end state mascots with American Indian ties began in 2015 when a measure similar to the current one failed in the legislature.  That same year, a “commission of tribal members and state agencies” also recommended that schools drop the use of Native American mascots.

Sponsor Danielson told Denver’s CBS4 that she is taking legislative action now because there is “much more support for racial justice reforms today,” unlike six years ago.

She added: 

“It’s a real harmful practice. 

“It hurts Native American and non-Native American kids. It perpetuates stereotypes and it bad for our community in general, and it’s long overdue to do away with this practice.”

Danielson also stated:

“They’ve been protested. 

“They’ve been begged. 

“They’ve even been urged by the state of Colorado to do the right thing, and instead of taking it on their own to do the right thing, they’ve decided to continue using derogatory mascots.”

Tribal members who supported the bill testified to the committee on history in the U.S. of “erasing Native American culture by prohibiting traditional practices” and the history of setting up American Indian boarding schools in the 19th and 20th century to “assimilate youth.”

Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Melvin J. Baker noted:

“My people have worked hard to overcome these policies aimed to exterminate our existence and any record of our history and culture.”

Baker also testified that “‘inaccurate and cruel portrayals’ of Native Americans as mascots have been used as ‘strategic tools to marginalize Indigenous communities.’”

Native American Talon Long recalled before the committee being called “Chief Talon” by classmates, and being asked if he lived in a cave.

Lakota descendant and Sioux Tribe member Brody SeeWalker declared:

“I’m not anyone’s mascot, and I’m not an animal, a savage or anyone’s good luck charm.”

He added:

“But schools with Native American mascots are teaching my peers that is OK to be racist and that I don’t matter. My generation lost their sense of identity and pride.”

Not all tribal members present at the committee were in favor of the bill, however.

Sylvester Roubideaux, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, told the committee that the Yuma High School Indians mascot “has allowed for celebration of Native American culture in his community.”

Roubideaux indicated that removing the mascots would be counterproductive, creating “less Native American representation” and creating a “vanishing people.”

Dwayne Brown, vice president of the Yuma School District Board of Education, added that “the [Yuma High School] Indian is in recognition of 10,000 years of use of the land by Native Americans.”

In addition, schools currently sporting American Indian mascots see great value in connecting with local tribes.

According to the Arapahoe High School website, the relationship between that high school and the Arapaho Nation provides a “positive solution for our future in the midst of mascot controversy.”

Arapahoe High School goes on to describe the benefits of the positive, respectful relationship, saying:

“Arapahoe High School has embraced a strong Arapaho Indian heritage by retaining within our high school the Spirit of the ‘Arapahoe Warrior’ and the respect of its people.

“The Arapaho Nation endorsed the use of the ‘Arapahoe Warrior’ logo for school activities. 

“A proclamation has been signed which stipulates the exchange and agreement between both cultures. Since the endorsement and signing of the proclamation an ongoing cultural and educational relationship has been nurtured and valued.”

Furthermore, State Senator Don Coram, a Republican from Montrose, CO, and an alumnus of Montrose High School, views his high school’s “Indians” mascot as “a way to honor the Native American heritage in the area.”

He told the Montrose Press:

“I think in the case of Montrose, as an example, they have reached out to the Indian nation several years ago and the Ute Indian logo is an honored tradition as far as Montrose High School is concerned.

“I am a Montrose Indian graduate and support the name because in our community, it’s used as honor and respect.”

He added:

“There’s nothing disrespectful about that. Our community has been very honored to have the Ute Indian Museum.”

Coran also stated that the issue of Native American mascots as a symbol of disrespect has never been broached with him in all his visits to the Ute community.

He continued:

“I don’t think (Indians is) a racist statement to use.”

Coran went on to say:

“I’ve been across the reservation where their mascot names are Braves and Redskins and everything else. 

“Somehow it hasn’t risen to a level that I’m aware of in the Ute Nation that we are disrespecting them by using that name.”

The latest reported status of SB21-116 is that the second reading is laid over, and there are no new amendments at this time.

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So woke: Headdresses and Native American face paint banned from Cleveland Indians stadium

CLEVELAND, OH – While the Major League Baseball team the Cleveland Indians is still working to figure out a new team name, the team recently announced that they will no longer allow fans to adorn Native American headdresses or face paint while inside of Progressive Field.

When it comes to professional sports like football and baseball, it’s not uncommon to see fans among the stands adorning themselves in some sort of garb that is emblematic of their preferred team.

One such practice was fairly common with respect to the fans of the Cleveland Indians, but the team announced that there will be a new fan dress policy moving forward on March 31st.

Moving forward, the team’s new dress code policy notes that fans can be kicked out or completely denied entry for adorning “headdresses and face paint styled in a way that references or appropriates American Indian cultures and traditions”:

“Inappropriate or offensive images, words, dress or face paint must be covered or removed, and failure to do so may constitute grounds for ejection or refusal of admission.”

However, fans of the Cleveland Indians will still be allowed to wear any hats or clothing that may feature “Chief Wahoo,” the team’s mascot that has also been the subject of rigorous debate on the level of appropriateness due to the stereotypes employed in the mascot’s caricature.

Earlier in 2021, the Cleveland Indians noted that they have intentions to change their team’s name, for which they have held since 1915. However, whatever new team name that officials decide on won’t take effect until the 2022 season.

While it’s unclear what exactly team owner Paul Dolan intends to rename the team to, he noted that whatever the change is will not bear any “Native American themes or connotations to it.”

This action taken by the Cleveland Indians, with regard to instilling a sort of dress code for fans, is hardly surprising considering the Kansas City Chiefs employed the same standard for a fan dress code back in August of 2020.

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Author: Lizzy Murica


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