Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, Chair of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs joins Chairman Manuel Heart of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Chairman Clement Frost, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, to issue the following statement after HB15-1165 “School’s Use of American Indian Mascots” failed.
“Last night, HB15-1165 ‘Schools’ Use of American Indian Mascots’ bill failed in the Senate State, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee on a party line vote. We would like to thank Representatives Salazar and Melton and Senator Ulibarri for bringing this legislation forward and, by doing so, providing a forum for an important conversation about the manner in which images and symbols are viewed depending on one’s individual historical and cultural perspective.
For centuries, American Indian peoples have called Colorado home. From Cortez to Sterling and Trinidad to Craig, numerous tribal nations hunted, gathered, and lived in areas from which, over time, most were removed and forced onto reservations, stripped of their land, language and culture, and, too often, even their lives.
HB 1165 sparked an important conversation in the Legislature about the use of outdated names and offensive caricatures of American Indian people in many of Colorado’s schools. While issues like local control and financial constraints prevailed, it is our hope that this discussion has encouraged communities to have an open and honest dialogue about this issue. Institutions which strive to teach respect and dignity to our next generation should recognize that displays of American Indian warpaint, headdresses and tomahawk chants may be offensive to tribal nations and Native people. Intentionally or not, they often degrade the proud and ongoing legacy of American Indians in Colorado and everywhere throughout the nation.
Last December, when Governor Hickenlooper apologized to the descendants of the tribes that suffered the atrocity of the Sand Creek Massacre, and a month later, when he gave his State of the State, he said healing begins with an apology. It also takes dialogue and a recognition that we view certain symbols, images and words through our respective historical and cultural perspectives. As we move forward, it is our hope that the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs will be utilized as a resource to help facilitate that dialogue by connecting schools and communities with Tribes that once called these places home, and may do so still today.”