“Just be Yuma.”
That was the motion, made by Yuma School District-1 board member Thomas Holtorf, and unanimously approved by the board during its regular monthly meeting, Monday night at the district office on S. Main St.
Holtorf, board President Duane Brown, and board members Lindsey Galles and John Deering were at the meeting in person, while Terri Cooper participated remotely.
Simply put — Yuma just will not have a mascot for at least the next school year.
There are many layers to this whole situation in having to eradicate the “Indians” mascot by the end of the school year — dictated by SB 21-116 approved by the Colorado Legislature, and signed into law by Governor Jared Polis last year.
That includes the family memorials of lost loved ones located along the east side of Yuma High School.
“I can’t apologize to them enough, it’s so emotional,” Yuma-1 Superintendent Dianna Chrisman told the Pioneer late last week. “…It’s so heartbreaking and frustrating to have so little say on something that impacts these families so directly.”
The fabulous granite and brick “Welcome to Yuma High School” edifice in front of the former main entrance to YHS will be coming down by April 29.
It was put up in memory of YHS graduate Brent Flaming, who died in a car accident while returning home from college in the late 1980s. His family, parents Jay and Carol Flaming, and sister Heather (Flaming) Klein, utilized memorial funds to pay for the monument. Carol was a teacher for many years in Yuma, and Heather has been a Yuma teacher for decades. (In the spirit of full disclosure, the Pioneer has used the edifice as the backdrop for Homecoming and Prom king and queen candidates since it was first constructed.)
Unfortunately, it includes a the Yuma Indians logo, as well as the words “Home of the Indians.” While it is possible those items could be “refaced,” Chrisman said there is not enough time to do so in light of the legislation. Yuma-1 is going to pay for its removal and transportation to wherever the Flaming family decides.
Jay Flaming told the Pioneer last week that then YHS art teacher Jack Watts did the Indians image for the monument.
“I was told there will be no memorials at the school,” he said.
Brown and Chrisman have visited with Heather Klein about the situation.
Jay Flaming said the family thought about putting the granite tribute in his and Carol’s yard, but that could cause problems when the couple eventually sells the house. He said the family is considering other options, and will somehow keep it with the family.
The Flamings happened to run into Troy Newton’s parents, Gary and Teresa, a couple of Sundays ago when out eating after church services.
That is notable because the Newton family paid for a granite tribute to Troy, following his untimely death in a vehicle accident east of Yuma in 2005. The YHS graduate was a popular boys basketball coach, and a great friend to many local and former residents.
The monument celebrates his accomplishments as the YHS C-team boys coach, his fun sense of humor, and also includes the “Indians” logo on the back side that faces the northeast corner of The Pit.
Teresa Newton told the Pioneer earlier last week that the family was “thinking if we need to do something, we could change that side.”
Chrisman told the Pioneer later last week that she had just became aware of the
“Indians” logo on the backside when she recently went to look at it herself. She said that currently she was not sure what would become of the Newton memorial, but it likely would have to come down also to meet the April 29 deadline.
That brings us back to the latest twist in the eradicate American Indians mascots as dictated by state legislation, and enforced by the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
But first (we said this a tangled mess) is the digital YHS sign on Highway 34 at S. Ash St. It was erected, thanks to very generous donations, more than 10 years ago. It includes panels honoring the donors, as well as a panel on top that includes the Indians mascot, and a spear that points south toward where the YHS main entrance used to be on S. Ash.
However, the district said it has been costly and difficult to keep the sign in working order through the years, and it was noted it no longer points toward the YHS main entrance, which now is at the end of S. Main St. following the recent completion of the $32 million renovation/expansion project.
Chrisman said that for now at least the Indians panel at the top will be removed by April 29. The digital sign’s long-term future is yet to be determined.
SB 21-116 stated the offending schools and/or districts had until June 1, 2022, to move on from their mascots, or face a monthly fine of $25,000.
However, the finish line keeps moving in this ongoing saga. Thus, the new April 29, 2022 deadline.
That is because, months after the legislation was approved and signed into law, “offending” schools and/or districts learned they had to get clearance from the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs (CCIA), which was set up as the arbiter of the “non-compliant” list, though that was never included in the legislation.
There is the fact the CCIA meets quarterly, which Yuma-1 leaders tried to adhere to when attempting to determine if “Tribe” would be a suitable replacement, only to learn well into 2022 that it would not be.
And then the CCIA came up with the requirement that schools and/or districts had to submit their evidence of moving away from American Indians mascots weeks in advance of its quarterly meetings.
Chrisman said Yuma-1 received word of that new requirement just one week before February 18, the deadline to submit evidence to the CCIA by its March 10 quarterly meeting.
Its next quarterly meeting, and last one before the June 1 deadline, is May 19, so districts and/or schools need to submit their documentation by April 29 in order to be considered to get off the non-compliant list on May 19, or begin getting ready to pay the $25,000 monthly fine.
Chrisman told the Pioneer she has a two-page list, in small font, of what needs to be done by the end of April so it can be submitted to the CCIA.
She gave the same update to the board of education during its February meeting, Monday night. She said the vendor has been helpful in coming up with a solution without having to completely sand down the gym floors. The YMS gym will be done during spring break, painting over the Yuma Indians mascots. The YHS gyms will be done one at a time after spring break so PE class still can be held in one gym or the other. The “offending” logos and slogans at midcourt and the sidelines will be removed and painted over, with a “Y” painted at center court.
The new “Tribe Pride” wall mountings in the YHS auxiliary gym reportedly will be replaced by “Yuma Pride.” The wall mats behind the baskets in the gyms will be removed, and replaced at a later date.
Uniforms already are being ordered that feature just “Yuma” with no mascot.
And then there is the mascot itself.
Yuma-1 has been working diligently since the legislation was passed last year to replace the nine-decades old Indians nomenclature.
The bid for “Tribe” finally was shot down earlier this year by the CCIA.
“Yetis” had gained traction, but still faced strong opposition from many who are of the thinking that it would just turn Yuma into a joke.
After Tribe was shot down for sure, Yuma-1 put out an online survey for people to vote on No Mascot, Yetis, Bison, Pioneers and Aggies. The survey attracted 668 responses in less than one month, giving participants the chance to vote on their top three options.
Chrisman told the board Monday night that “No Mascot” was the winner in the first, second and third options. “Yetis” came in second on the first option, but fell in the standings as the second or third option.
“Personally, I am trying to stem the flow of things coming out of my head right now,” Holtorf said during Monday night’s meeting, “but right now we’ve just got to let this heal.”
The board members unanimously agreed that at this point it was more critical to get into compliance, and thus avoid the $25,000 per month fine, and revisit the new-mascot issue sometime in the future.
That’s when Holtorf’s “Just be Yuma” motion was unanimously approved.