Hailed as a
national model in eliminating derogatory imagery
John Hickenlooper on Monday stands with members of the Governor's
Commission to Study American Indian Representation in Public
Schools to announce findings, including that schools should
eliminate derogatory and offensive Native American mascots,
imagery and names. The commission is being hailed as a national
model. (photo by
Peter Marcus - Durango Herald)
DENVER Members of a commission that studied Native American
mascots in schools on Monday reported success, blazing the way for
a national effort.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, last year announced the
commission, which was charged with studying how communities can
respect the culture of Native Americans while also maintaining traditions.
After five months of community meetings and discussions, the
15-member commission established four principles, including eliminating
derogatory and offensive Native American mascots, imagery and names.
Rather than mandate a solution through legislation which
was proposed in the Legislature leaders said a better approach
is to facilitate community discussions.
"The solution you get to by opening your arms and opening your
heart, and actually going and listening, and going through this
longer, more time-consuming process, is a much stronger resolution
than a legislative one," Hickenlooper said at a news conference
in his office, with members of the commission, including representatives
of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
Four schools in Colorado with Native American names and imagery
have taken steps to facilitate a conversation as a result of the
Strasburg High School, home of the Indians, has reached out
to tribal representatives of the Northern Arapahoe in Wyoming to
design a more culturally appropriate logo. Northern Arapahoe members
will visit the school Friday to provide additional cultural information.
Loveland High School administration, home of the Indians, has
also expressed support for reaching out to tribal nations. Similarly,
Lamar High School, home of the Savages, and Eaton High School, home
of the Reds, also are discussing how to set a tone for civil dialogue
in an effort to hear from both sides of the community.
Jeff Rasp, principal at Strasburg High School, said he watched
his administration go through a sort of "evolution" on the subject.
The board had opposed legislation last year that would have prohibited
schools from using Native American mascots.
"In that early process, we weren't ready yet for an answer,"
Rasp said. "I can tell you now, that after going through this process,
I don't see how you can be on a commission with these honored guests
here and friends, and not say that anything in particular that's
offensive and derogatory needs to be eliminated."
The three other principles outlined are:
- Recognizing and respecting tribal sovereignty while pushing
schools to enter into relationships with tribes.
- Respecting local control of school boards while encouraging
those boards to engage in Native American conversations.
- Focusing on education and outreach.
The commission was such a success, it caught the attention of
the White House, which is considering taking the strategy to other
states. It also complements an initiative by sportswear manufacturing
giant Adidas to provide financial and design assistance to schools
that want to change Native American mascots.
"Harmful stereotypes affect students' lives day in and day out,"
said Bill Mendoza, executive director of the White House Initiative
on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.
"It is an evolution we are all having, an evolution of the kind
of sophistication of this issue."
Clement Frost, chairman of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, added:
"American Indian mascots that portray American Indians as caricatures,
trivialize symbols of American Indian culture and lack any sincere
connection to the people they purport to represent can be harmful
and offensive. Nonetheless, the use of American Indian mascots creates
an opportunity for schools and tribes to engage in meaningful relationships
with one another."