Should public schools in Colorado be allowed to use Native American mascots? The nationwide issue is once again taking center stage in Colorado.
The Governor’s Commission on Indian Representation met at Strasburg High School Monday night.
Strasburg’s mascot is the Indians and its logo features the facial profile of a Native American in a large headdress.
“We want to be respectful,” said Strasburg High School principal, Jeff Rasp. “And we don’t want any part of what we portray to be disrespectful to anyone.”
Inside the school Monday, the crowd was split into tables where small group discussions were held with commission members.
“(Our logo) is respectful,” said Rasp. “It’s not a caricature. I think we’ve tried to bring honor and respect to the tribes. We know that any Indian mascot may be considered derogatory. We just feel like ours is not.”
Strasburg High school senior Lindsey Nichols is appointed to the commission. For the past year, she has been reaching out to tribes like the northern Arapahoe and southern Cheyenne who are both native to Strasburg.
“They’ve been positive about our depictions around the school,” Nichols said. “And I’ve really learned a lot from their perspectives. I learned more from them than I could in any history book.”
And that’s perhaps the most important point of the commission. Start the dialogue about why Native Americans are used as mascots and how the practice should continue from here.
“I think there are some great examples, like Arapahoe High School, like Strasburg High School - that are working with tribal nations,” said Ernest House, Jr., the executive director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
But some have been critical of other schools like Eaton, where the mascot is more of a caricature than an artist’s rendition – and Lamar, where the mascot is the Savages.
“The history of that community, those tribes – has been lost over time,” said House.
In Strasburg, they’re proud of their mascot, but sensitive as well. They’re even incorporating some of Nichols research and findings into their curriculum.
“I don’t know if you’ll ever be able to have one objective answer to whether these mascots are okay,” said Nichols. “There are some tribal members who say it’s never okay.”
The meeting in Strasburg Monday night was the first of five such meetings at five different high schools over the next five months. The next meeting is at Lamar High School. In April, the commission is due to report its recommendations to the governor and the state legislature.