Colorado Senate weighs bill limiting Native American mascots

By The Associated Press

DENVER (AP) — Legislation to prohibit Native American mascots at Colorado schools unless a tribe approves faces its toughest test in the state Senate.

The proposal passed the House this month by one vote with every Republican opposed. Now it’s up for a vote in a GOP-led Senate committee on Wednesday.

The bill would direct schools to get permission from a panel of tribes to use or continue to use Native American mascots. Schools that don’t get permission would have to stop the use within two years or face a fine of $25,000 a month.

Schools and lawmakers opposed to the bill have cited the costs of switching mascots and updating uniforms as a major concern.

Supporters say the state should not condone derogatory team names at schools.



House Bill 1165:

Lies, Betrayal, & Embezzlement: Chamber of Commerce Head Pleads Guilty

By Carol Berry, Indian Country Today Media Network

Justice caught up with the former head of the Rocky Mountain Indian Chamber of Commerce (RMICC) July 12 in Denver District Court when, despite his earlier assertions of innocence, he pleaded guilty to charges of theft from RMICC, including felony theft of more than $20,000, and avoided a jury trial.

Joshua Running Wolf, 32, of the Blackfeet Nation, Browning, Montana, has been ordered to repay the RMICC $30,000 in restitution before his sentencing October 11 or the felony theft charge will remain on his permanent record and he will serve jail time, according to a deputy district attorney.

Potential penalties for the crimes are up to 24 years incarceration and up to a $750,000 fine for the major theft conviction and up to 18 months in county jail with a $5,000 maximum fine for conviction on a charge of misdemeanor theft of more than copy,000, an amount cited by the prosecution.

Dee St. Cyr, Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska and RMICC board chairwoman, said justice prevailed “but there are no winners in this case.” Running Wolf was offered the opportunity to serve as president, but in that capacity he “stole large sums of money from the very people who supported him.” RMCC will continue to provide services to the Native business community, she said.

Deb Emhoolah, Kiowa, RMICC board of directors secretary, noted Running Wolf is the father of four of her grandchildren. “He abandoned them nearly two years ago and embezzled RMICC funds to support his philandering lifestyle,” she explained. “RMICC is stronger, in a better place and we are looking forward to a successful future for RMICC.”

Don Kelin, of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and a RMICC member, said Running Wolf “embezzled funds from what little dollars the [RMICC] had and embezzled funds from the education funds for our youth” as he “continued with lies to the Indian community about what happened.”

According to the charges to which Running Wolf pleaded, the thefts occurred in a period that began in 2011, about three years after he said he became RMICC president. The matter came to light when “we were doing audits,” he said in an interview shortly after his arrest. He said at that time that he was “not too sure” about the charges against him but that he was not aware of doing anything wrong.

The amount of total restitution was placed at copy15,152.



Lack of Tribal Consultation Leads to Conflict at a Denver Museum

By Carol Berry, Indian Country Today Media Network


Photo by Carol Berry. Edward Nichols, president and CEO of History Colorado, spoke with Terry Knight, a cultural leader of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, at a meeting March 22 of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. The commission has been asked to help foster negotiations between the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and History Colorado in a conflict over consultation for the Sand Creek Massacre exhibit at the History Colorado Center.

Photo by Carol Berry. Edward Nichols, president and CEO of History Colorado, spoke with Terry Knight, a cultural leader of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, at a meeting March 22 of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs. The commission has been asked to help foster negotiations between the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and History Colorado in a conflict over consultation for the Sand Creek Massacre exhibit at the History Colorado Center.


When tribes, whose ancestors are the subject of a museum exhibit, are against that exhibit and ask for it to be closed pending further consultation, it’s obvious something is amiss.

Although reluctant in the past to close the exhibit, officials of a Denver museum are now considering it to repair a damaged partnership with the affected tribes.

The controversy focuses on History Colorado Center’s exhibit on the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864, when more than 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly children, women and elders, were killed by U.S. Army volunteers in a southeast Colorado camp where they had been promised safety.

Past meetings with tribal representatives have led museum officials to correct some editorial errors in the exhibit, but that didn’t solve the deeper problem that the officials didn’t consult with tribes as much as they should have.

The Sand Creek Massacre exhibit is a cluster of small chambers with curved walls alight with shifting messages and images that characterize 19th century beliefs about Natives and non-Natives. Throughout the exhibit a recording of the late LaForce Lone Bear singing his ancestor Chief White Antelope’s death song plays. The music is interspersed with muted gunshots and cries. One message in colors shifting from blue to violet on a wall says, “Ve’ho’e is the Cheyenne term for spider as well as for white man. It represents an intelligent mischief-maker or villain.”

The mass killing at Sand Creek is neutrally attributed in the exhibit to a “collision” of cultures, but it was “one of the most heinous crimes committed on the planet,” said David Halaas, former chief historian of the Colorado Historical Society, which preceded History Colorado.

The tribes involved have repeatedly asked—and continue to ask—that the exhibit be closed until they are consulted fully about its content. Although History Colorado officials said recently that a meeting with tribes will be held before the end of March, the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs said it’s waiting to hear from the tribes. The commission has been asked to help negotiate among the government-designated partners overseeing the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site—the National Park Service, the state through History Colorado, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

Although partnered management of the massacre site may not technically extend to the museum exhibit, History Colorado stresses that “partnership with the tribes is what we want to achieve and have enjoyed in the past.”

“They [History Colorado] present quotes that try to tell the story in all its fullness—but this was a massacre,” stressed Halaas, a long-time tribal friend. “They use quotes which seem to explain why the soldiers did what they did—those quotations are unacceptable.” Meetings between the museum and tribes in 2011 and 2012 concerning the exhibit were unsuccessful, he said, and tribal representatives boycotted the center’s opening last April.

Now, closing the exhibit pending tribal consultation and approval is “under consideration,” said Edward Nichols, president and CEO of History Colorado. “We’re as interested in getting to a resolution of their concerns as they are.” He believes not getting the tribes involved sooner is at the heart of the dispute and is anxious for a conversation with them.

There are further complexities to this consultation process. Gordon Yellowman, a principal Cheyenne tribal chief and a Peace Chief on the Cheyenne Council of Forty-Four, said the tribe is governed by a dual traditional/Western-style system. A required federal government-to-government consultation process was established between the National Park Service and elected tribal officials who are, in turn, supposed to bring decisions back to the traditional leaders and headmen to whom they customarily defer, but the process hasn’t run smoothly, he said.

The museum conducts audience surveys to see how the exhibit was received by patrons. But Halaas feels, “they should be more concerned about the reaction of the tribes” both in terms of whether it’s an accurate, non-eurocentric historical account and how well it describes the event’s illegality and its past and present impacts on the tribes.

The most graphic material presented in the exhibit may be in a letter from Capt. Silas Soule, who refused to follow the orders of his commander, Army Col. John Chivington, to fire on the unarmed Indians and who later testified against Chivington for atrocities committed that day. Chivington later resigned his post in disgrace. Soule wrote in a letter to Gen. George Wynkoop, only one copy of which was available to the public at the installation:

“I tell you Ned it was hard to see little children on their knees have their brains beat out by men professing to be civilized… One squaw with her two children, were on their knees, begging for their lives of a dozen soldiers, within ten feet of them all firing—when one succeeded in hitting the squaw in the thigh, when she took a knife and cut the throats of both children and then killed herself.”

“This is an open wound—this is not healed,” Halaas said. “Let’s sit down together, and while we’re doing that, close this thing and reopen it after full consultation—that’s what the tribes want.”

“After all,” he concluded, “it isn’t their [museum officials’] history—but it’s affected every tribal family.”