After five months of meetings and "heart-to-hearts," a commission created by Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has concluded that all Colorado public schools should abandon mascots and team nicknames related to American Indians, unless those schools partner with tribes.
The state currently has over 30 such high schools that fit this criteria, the Denver Post reports.
The commission was created by Gov. Hickenlooper in 2015 in an executive order and is comprised of "tribal leaders, school officials, students and American Indian advocates."
After visiting four schools where American Indian mascots are used—the Strasburg High School Indians, Loveland Indians, Lamar Savages, and the Eaton Reds—the commission decided on four guidelines that schools state-wide would adopt:
Get rid of American Indian mascots—especially the clearly derogatory ones.
Schools should enter formal relationships with federally recognized tribes to retain their American Indian imagery.
Local control by elected boards of education and the community is recognized, but those in charge can still choose to listen, discuss and share information about American Indian mascots.
Promote American Indian history, culture and contributions in public schools.
Ray Ramirez, editor for the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, told the Denver Post that doing away with this "disrespect is a lifetime job."
"Now, I know there are some schools here in Colorado that absolutely refuse to change, and their whole things is, 'We're honoring you, and you're dishonoring us by trying to make us change,' " Ramirez said. "If you're really honoring indigenous people, you would change the name."
In a press conference announcing the committee's findings, Hickenlooper said that schools would not be forced to adopt these guidelines or change their mascot names.
One student, Strasburg High School senior Lindsey Nichols, started researching her school's nickname The Indians during the 2014-2015 academic year and reached out to several tribes for more information. Officials at Strasburg have said the school will keep the nickname but "is in the process of changing its image to be more authentic and respectful." Part of that? Having a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe handle any redesigns.
Strasburg High School principal Jeff Rasp said he recognized the importance of educating students on their mascot origins and being culturally understanding.
"In our eyes, treating American Indians respectfully far supersedes local tradition," Rasp said.
Two of the four schools examined by the commission were less responsive to the proposed changes, saying they would not make them without legislative efforts.
Hickenlooper told Colorado Springs' The Gazette that he hoped governors in nearby states would appoint similar panels in their states and come to similar conclusions.
California was the first state to ban the use of the term "Redskins" in team nicknames, a law that goes into effect January 1. Adidas has a standing offer to aid any school financially and with design work if they want to retire nicknames based on American Indians.
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