No direction from CCIA for Yuma-1 new mascot

Yuma School District-1’s effort to change its Indians mascot is becoming an exercise in frustration for district leaders.

District leaders had hoped to receive some feedback from the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs during a special meeting it held last Thursday, December 9. Superintendent Dianna Chrisman and board members Duane Brown and Thomas Holtorf listened in via Zoom.
The district had sent in a written proposal for changing to “Tribe” with no American Indian imagery involved. The hope was the CCIA members would provide some indication if “Tribe” would be acceptable in getting Yuma off the “non-compliant” list.
However, there was no such guidance from the CCIA during last week’s Zoom meeting, during which only CCIA members could actively participate. There was even one elementary school that has changed its mascot name to “All Stars” and has eliminated all American Indian reference and imagery from its school and letterheads.
Still, the CCIA voted at the end of its meeting not to remove any school from the non-compliant list, and did not address Yuma’s proposal to go to “Tribe.”
Following the Zoom meeting, Chrisman, sitting in the board room at the district office, expressed frustration at developing a working relationship with the CCIA. The commission has only two more quarterly meetings remaining before Senate Bill 21-116’s June 1, 2022 deadline for Colorado schools with American Indian mascots to change them. If still on the “non-compliant” list on that date, schools and/or school districts are subject to a $25,000 monthly fine.
More than 20 schools remain on the non-compliant list.
SB 21-116 was passed by the Colorado legislature last spring, and signed into law by Governor Jared Polis in June. Yuma-1 began working toward changing its mascot to be in compliance with the new law.
However, it learned in the fall, in a round-about way, that schools had to go through the CCIA to get approved for their new mascot and get off the non-compliant list. Yuma-1 finally received a letter about it many weeks after it was supposed to be notified.
Yuma-1 was on the agenda for a CCIA meeting on November 9 to discuss the “Tribe” proposal. However, all schools on the agenda were taken off and the meeting changed to an executive session to discuss the lawsuit challenging SB 21-116 by the Native American Guardians Association and its co-plaintiffs, which had been filed a few days earlier. CCIA Executive Director Kathryn Redhorse is one of the defendants named in the lawsuit.
Then came last week’s CCIA special meeting, and no clear indication how Yuma can move forward with its mascot. As of now, Yuma-1 is simply eliminating “Indians” and for the time being is putting on hold any new mascot decision. The key, though, is the district get off the non-compliant list by the June 1, 2022 deadline.
District leaders did get somewhat of an indication on if “Tribe” will work by a “Guidance for Commissioners to Consider on SB21-116 Compliance” that was passed by the CCIA Board during last week’s meeting.
The last two bullet points on the document read:
• “Does the general public associate the changed name/symbol/image/word with the American Indians/Alaska Natives community or Tribal Nations?”
• “Does the general public associate the changed mascot with the American Indian/Alaska Native community or Tribal Nations?”
Yuma-1 is trying to temper its frustration with the CCIA since it needs the commission to eventually vote to take the district off the non-compliant list, or begin paying a $25,000 monthly fine effective June 1, 2022. In that regard, the Rural School Alliance is beginning to take up the cause for the schools and districts in an effort to push the CCIA into being more proactive.