Colorado governor’s commission recommends public schools phase out American Indian mascots

(KXRM Photo)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KXRNM) — A commission created by Governor John Hickenlooper has determined that Colorado public schools should eliminate all American Indian mascots, imagery and names.

After visiting four communities where American Indian mascots are ingrained in high school life, the commission established four guiding principles.

Some of them include removing all derogatory American Indian mascots. Another being that schools should enter formal relationships with federally recognized tribes if they want to retain their imagery and that schools must promote American Indian history and culture in public schools.

The committee was made up of tribal leaders, school officials and students and they all agreed that the responsibility boils down to schools being intentional moving forward.

“I think it’s really dumb because why change it if its been here for so long,” said freshman Heather Knight.

That was the reaction many students shared at Cheyenne Mountain High School, a name which honors the Cheyenne Indian tribe.

“It’s just been this way for so long that I just don’t think it would be right to change it,” said sophomore Isabella Middlemiss.

“I’m a little Navajo and plus my family has been going to this high school for a long time so I think changing it would be kind of an outrage,” said sophomore Paul Surniak.

District 12 superintendent Walter Cooper served on the commission and says that no legislative mandates would be enforced in part due to the complexity surrounding the issue.

“There is a lot of disagreement, even among native American tribal leaders as to what’s appropriate and what is inappropriate and what they think is acceptable or unacceptable,” he said.

The underlying recommendation is that if a school wishes to keep their American Indian mascot, they should build a relationship with that tribe but since that can be timely, Cheyenne Mountain High School says they can take other immediate actions.

“We need to make sure that we don’t have some of those inappropriate or offensive representations on apparel or a wall,” said Cooper.

Moving forward it boils down to schools being responsible and intentional when it comes to representing American Indian mascots.

“If we are going to use a race of humans, represent a race of humans as our mascot then we have to be sensitive to that and we have to do it in a manner that those individuals feel respected,” Cooper said.

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