Law Against Caricatures (mascots)

DENVER - A state lawmaker wants Colorado schools with American Indian mascots to get approval to continue using them from the Native American community. If the mascots, names or imagery are not approved, and the school continues using it, the proposal would block the schools from receiving state funds.

Representative Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said he plans to introduce the bill at the beginning of next year's legislative session in January.

"We don't have to give funding to a school or public education institution that wants to engage in derogatory behavior," explained Representative Salazar.

There is an ongoing debate about Native American-themed mascots, one that has centered on the NFL's Washington Redskins.

More than a dozen Colorado schools still have Indian-themed mascots, including Lamar High School, home of the Savages, Eaton High School, home of the reds, and the Yuma High School Indians.

The bill proposed by Salazar would allow the Native American community to decide if the mascots and imagery are offensive.

It would require schools with Indian-themed mascots to get approval by representatives from the Indian community. Mascots or imagery deemed offensive could no longer be used, and public schools who decide to continue using the mascots would then be stripped of state funds.

"Why is a law needed?" asked 7NEWS Reporter Jennifer Kovaleski.

"The reason the law is necessary is because we do have schools that are resistant to wanting to change these derogatory images," said Salazar. "I believe there is a school up in the east area of Colorado that uses savages as their mascot and that is wholly -- and by any measure -- derogatory and offensive."

Some Colorado teams previously dropped their Indian-themed mascots. Arvada High School switched from Redskins to the Reds in 1993, and the school adopted a Bulldog mascot.

Arapahoe High School has kept its mascot, the Warriors, but had the logo designed by a Native American artist. Salazar said those schools are the model.

"Those that have already received that type of approval have reached out to the respective tribes they won't have to go through that process," he explained.

Salazar said the bill is still in the early stages. He plans to get more input from the public during a community meeting scheduled at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center, 4407 Morrison Road, from 4:30-7p.m. on Sept. 10.

Similar bills have been introduced in the state legislature, but did not pass.