Effort underway to try to keep Yuma mascot

Letters of support. Petition signatures. Testimony in a committee hearing. Finding a Native American tribe that would support the Yuma Indians.
That is the multi-pronged course of action coming out of a Yuma School District-1 Board of Education public meeting held Tuesday night in the Yuma High School Commons.

The reason? Somehow saving Yuma’s 86-year-old mascot in light of Colorado Senate Bill 116, which passed out of the full senate last week on a 20-12 party-line vote last week, with three Republicans absent.
If one has not been paying attention, the proposed legislation will force all K-12 schools in Colorado to cease using Native American mascots by next year. Non-compliance means a $25,000 per month fine.
The bill now goes before the Colorado House Education Committee, May 13 at 1:30 p.m. If it passes out of there, it will go to a vote for the full House. It likely would pass both, sending it to the governor for his final signature, which likely is a slam-dunk as well.
A profound pride in Yuma Indians, and in the community being one “Tribe” is resulting in a push-back to Senate Bill 116 by current and former Yuma residents.
Besides school district personnel and media, only five community members attended Tuesday’s meeting, but more participated via phone, and judging by social media reaction, there is a groundswell of somehow trying to keep Yuma’s mascot — and identity. (And people just don’t like going to meetings, unless it involves their children or someone’s job.)
District leaders made it clear during the meeting that, realistically, it is likely the bill will become law, forcing Yuma to drop its Indians mascot — which was voted for by high school students in 1935 to honor the history of the region, including the formerly-named and famous “Yuma Point” arrowhead.
However, as one meeting participant, Zach Wall, noted “If you bark back, at least you feel like you tried.”
Therefore, anyone with Yuma connections, particularly any with a Native American heritage, are asked to write letters explaining why they support Yuma keeping its Indians mascot.
The letters can be emailed to community member Teresa Roubideaux at [email protected], or mailed to her the traditional way at 202 E. 12th Ave., Yuma, CO 80759.
She will take the letters with her when she testifies before the House Education Committee.
Also, one can expect to find hard-copy and digital versions of a petition supporting the cause out in the public in the near future. The Pioneer will share information about the petitions, in print and digitally, as soon as made available.
Only the Roubideaux family, with a direct connection to the Rosebud Sioux, and Yuma-1 Board member Duane Brown, were about the only ones who testified against Senate Bill 116, last month before the Senate Education Committee, while 27 testified in favor.
Brown and Superintendent Dianna Chrisman said Tuesday that judging by conversations, more schools with Native American mascots — there are still about 18-20 in Colorado — will join in testifying against the bill before the House Education Committee.
Yuma-1 estimates it will take approximately $200,000 to eliminate all references to the Indians mascot if forced to do so, and would have just a little more than one year to make those changes.
Chrisman said the community’s best chance is to somehow reach an agreement with a Native American tribe that is federally recognized as having a Colorado connection. However, she stressed such an agreement could be fraught with uncertainty. Finding one to do so also might prove very difficult. The Arapahoe tribe that has reached an agreement with Strasburg and Arapahoe schools has stated it does not want to get involved in anymore agreements. Even if Yuma-1 was to find a partner, the agreement could be revoked anytime by the tribe, and an agreement also would involve costs to the district.
She stressed that the district is willing to try that path, but also stressed it is an iffy proposition.
As for testimony before the House Education Committee, it was discussed that it might prove detrimental if too many were to do so — turning the hearing into a marathon — so the focus is to have a certain number of people testify in favor of Yuma but have the overall community support displayed in the form of letters of support and petition signatures.
Roubideaux’s husband, Lee, is a Rosebud Sioux from South Dakota, and their two sons are Rosebud Sioux. Wall’s wife Tera is Native American, as are their children and Tera’s siblings. The Roubideaux’s said they plan on testifying again before the House Education Committee, and Wall said he and his wife and 11-year-old son could testify, as well as possibly other family members.
“We need to be as loud as we can be,” Wall said.
There was talk about incorporating more Native American history into the Yuma curriculum — currently statewide the only mandate is it be a part of fourth-grade history — and of possibly having a cultural exchange program.

Chrisman said there should be more Native American history in the Yuma schools because it is an important part of the area, but also noted such a move probably would not stop the bill.
It was suggested about simply not paying the $25,000 per month fine, which comes to $300,000 in 12 months. It was noted that is a lot of money taken away from education and school expenses. Brown also said it likely would result in the Colorado Attorney General filing a lawsuit against the district.
There also was talk about the bill taking away local control. Chrisman said it is a good point that has been discussed, but in the end probably wouldn’t help.
In the end, it was stressed by district leaders that any effort to stop taking away Yuma’s mascot needs to be a community issue, not just come from the school district.
“It needs to be the community wanting to maintain its identity,” Chrisman said.