DENVER (CBS4) – Schools that use nicknames based on Native American names or imagery must seek tribes’ permission or lose funding under a bill proposed by a Colorado lawmaker.
Joseph Salazar, a House Democrat from Thornton, said the measure will help get rid of unauthorized mascots at Colorado’s public schools.
“There are people out there who still reside in the world of ignorance or who still reside in the world of being very stubborn,” Salazar said.
He said mascots like the Savages of Lamar High School on the state’s eastern plains are offensive.
A meeting to address the issue will be held at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center on Morrison Road on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
The issues has flared lately on the national level because of the Washington Redskins nickname in the NFL.
Under the legislation, schools like Arapahoe High School in Littleton Public Schools would be exempt because they sought permission.
“Legislation doesn’t really change attitudes. Instead it changes behavior,” Salazar said. “You want to continue using your racist and your stereotypical imagery? Then we don’t have to fund that.”
A board member of the Colorado Indian Education Foundation says Indian-themed mascots portray Native Americans in a negative light.
“It doesn’t allow for young people or Americans to actually see Indian people are contributors, as contemporary people,” Darius Smith said.
Salazar said he believes there are almost 40 schools in Colorado with an American Indian theme.
“This should be a positive and we’re asking people to open up communication with each other and that should be a natural thing to do,” he said.
The superintendent of the Lamar School District did not immediately return a call for comment.