DENVER — Monday, April 18, 2016 — Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Governor’s Commission to Study American Indian Representation in Public Schools today released their final report on the use of mascots and imagery in Colorado public schools. The group was joined by William (Bill) Mendoza, the executive director of White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

“This Commission has charted a path forward for Colorado with a willingness to work together through conversation and collaboration,” said Hickenlooper. “We are grateful to everyone who participated in this process. Their hard work gives us all a better understanding of each other and the complexities of this issue.”

Representatives from federally recognized tribes, Colorado’s American Indian population, institutions of public education, state agencies, and community stakeholders make up the 15 member commission. The Commission was created by the governor in 2015 through executive order.

After five months of community meetings and discussion, the Commission established four guiding principles that can be taken on by local communities, educational institutions, state agencies and organizations. The four guiding principles that are outlined in the report include:

  • The elimination of derogatory and offensive American Indian mascots, imagery, and names and a strong recommendation for communities to review their depictions in facilitated public forums.
  • The recognition and respect of Tribal sovereignty and a strong recommendation for schools to enter into formal relationships with federally recognized tribe to retain their American Indian imagery.
  • The recognition and respect of local control by elected boards of education and an active involvement of local communities, students, and citizens around the topic of American Indian mascots.
  • A strong educational focus and outreach.

“Through participation in this Commission, our tribe was able to see the lack of education and awareness around American Indian history and culture in Colorado’s public schools,” said Chairman Clement Frost, Southern Ute Indian Tribe. “We believe it is incumbent upon our Tribe, the State of Colorado, and Colorado public schools to recognize the role of American Indians in Colorado’s history and to ensure that this history is taught comprehensively and accurately.”

The Commission was invited by four communities with American Indian mascots to engage in a discussion about the ongoing struggle for local traditions versus the desire to treat American Indians respectfully and honor their history and culture.

“The recommendations made by Governor Hickenlooper and the Commission are not only needed and appropriate, they are consistent with the concerns raised by native youth across the country, who are calling upon education decision-makers to address harmful Native-themed imagery so that all students,  particularly Native Americans, experience a safe and welcoming school environment,” said William (Bill) Mendoza, executive director,  White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

“As an administrator, emphasizing respect for all cultures and for all people is one of our most important educational missions,” said Jeff Rasp Principal at Strasburg High School. “Our partnership with the Arapaho tribe has been one of the most beneficial experiences ever for our school.”

“The use of American Indian mascots creates an opportunity for schools and tribes to engage in meaningful relationships with one another,” said Chairman Manuel Heart, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. “Schools like Strasburg High School are positive examples of a way in which the use of a mascot can be the catalyst for fostering a respectful, educational, and unique partnership that also acknowledges the sovereignty of American Indian nations.”

To see a full copy of the report, please visit here.

An excerpt:

Like most students, Eaton High School senior Karalee Kothe had never thought about her school’s mascot — the Fightin’ Reds — really deeply.

Then last year, she heard about state lawmakers who were pushing a bill that would have created a committee to review the use of potentially offensive Indian mascots. If the committee – or a tribe – found one to be offensive and the school still had the mascot after two years, it would face a fine of $25,000 a month.

The bill didn’t pass, but it got Kothe thinking.

“I was like, ‘hey what about our mascot’?” said Kothe, who’s also the editor of the Red Ink, the newspaper for the school located just north of Greeley. 

The Eaton mascot is plastered in the middle of the gym floor, on the walls, on students’ uniforms. It’s a cartoon-like caricature of a Native American.

“He’s in an aggressive stance, so it’s just not very realistic and many would say it’s not very honorable for Native Americans,” said junior Devan McKenney.

To read the entire article, click here.

An excerpt:

Should public schools in Colorado be allowed to use Native American mascots? The nationwide issue is once again taking center stage in Colorado.

The Governor’s Commission on Indian Representation met at Strasburg High School Monday night.

Strasburg’s mascot is the Indians and its logo features the facial profile of a Native American in a large headdress.

“We want to be respectful,” said Strasburg High School principal, Jeff Rasp. “And we don’t want any part of what we portray to be disrespectful to anyone.”

(Our logo) is respectful,” said Rasp. “It’s not a caricature. I think we’ve tried to bring honor and respect to the tribes. We know that any Indian mascot may be considered derogatory. We just feel like ours is not.”

Strasburg High school senior Lindsey Nichols is appointed to the commission. For the past year, she has been reaching out to tribes like the northern Arapahoe and southern Cheyenne who are both native to Strasburg.

To read the entire article, click here.