DENVER (AP) – Colorado officials and tribal leaders are urging public schools to eliminate Native American mascots unless they partner with tribes, calling it a unique way to address a national debate over what many consider derogatory symbols in high schools and sports such as the National Football League.
A state commission on Monday recommended the partnerships to ensure mascots, nicknames and logos respect Native American history. A collaborative approach honors school traditions while educating the community about tribal culture, said Gov. John Hickenlooper, who appointed the panel.
«I want to work with my counterparts to bring more awareness and understanding of this,» Hickenlooper said, suggesting he will bring it to the Western Governors Association.
While the NFL’s Washington Redskins have resisted appeals to change their name and mascot, efforts to remove team mascots and imagery that are deemed offensive have been underway for decades.
California was the first state to ban public schools’ use of the term «Redskins.» The law goes into effect Jan. 1. Athletic apparel maker Adidas has offered financial and design support to schools that want to retire their Native American mascots, nicknames and imagery.
More than two-thirds of American schools have retired their Native American mascots since the 1970s, the Colorado commission report said. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to the practice in 2001.
The NCAA warned colleges and universities in 2005 that they would face sanctions if they didn’t change Native American logos or nicknames. Some kept the names with tribal permission, including the Florida State Seminoles and Utah Utes.
In Colorado, some embraced the report as a way to raise the self-esteem of Native American and non-native students alike.
«Harmful stereotypes affect students’ lives, day in, day out,» said William Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education and an Oglala-Sicangu Lakota.
Hickenlooper, the governor, appointed the panel after the Legislature failed to pass a bill last year to require tribal approval for public schools to keep using Native American mascots.
Panelists held public discussions in four cities and towns with American Indian mascots: Strasburg and Loveland, which use «Indians»; Lamar, which uses «Savages»; and Eaton, using «Reds.»
The community of Strasburg partnered with the Northern Arapaho Tribe to explore the origins of its high school mascot and redesign it, along with murals and other images at the school, principal Jeffrey Paul Rasp said.
Arapahoe High School in Centennial worked with its namesake tribe in the 1990s to preserve its Warrior mascot. Arvada High School dropped its mascot altogether in favor of the Bulldogs.
Commission report: website panel urges schools to drop Native American mascots