Yuma-1 delaying mascot decision

Yuma School District-1 is going to delay making a decision on a new mascot, which originally was set to take place Monday, November 15, at the board of education’s regular monthly meeting.
Yuma School District-1 leaders were scheduled to participate in the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs’ special session, via Zoom, this past Tuesday afternoon. Yuma-1 wanted to visit with the CCIA about the likelihood of “Tribe” being accepted as the district’s new mascot/team name.

However, the CCIA removed Yuma from its agenda as of Tuesday morning. Two other school districts, Weldon Valley and Lamar, also were removed from the agenda.
Yuma Superintendent Dianna Chrisman said she received an email from the CCIA stating the agenda was changed to only an executive session to discuss the lawsuit filed last week by NAGA. The email stated the discussions with the school districts might be rescheduled to a later date.
The Native American Guardian’s Association filed its lawsuit last week against Colorado for banning American Indian school mascots. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court. Besides NAGA, other plaintiffs include Yuma High School graduate Chase Aubrey Roubideaux, and Donald Wayne Smith, Jr., the pastor at Yuma Christian Church. Lamar High School graduate Demetrius Marez also is a plaintiff. All cite having Native American heritage.
The lawsuit names several Colorado officials, such as Governor Jared Polis, Attorney General Phil Weiser, and Kathryn Redhorse, the executive director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
The lawsuit is in response to Colorado Senate Bill 21-116, signed into law this past June. It argues the state should not outlaw culturally-sensitive uses of Native American names and imagery, stating it is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The plaintiffs also have requested a preliminary injunction, seeking the judge to make a decision on that by November 30.
The Yuma-1 Board of Education was scheduled to adopt a new mascot Monday. However, Chrisman said the decision now will have to be delayed. She said the issue will be discussed extensively during Monday’s board meeting.
The lawsuit states: “Plaintiffs oppose the use of American Indian mascot performers and caricatures that move Native American heritage — such as Lamar High School’s former mascot Chief UghLee or the Atlanta Braves’ former Native American caricature Chief Noc-A-Homa — in sports and other public venues. Nevertheless, culturally appropriate Native American names, logos and imagery serve to honor Native Americans, and to help public schools neutralize offensive and stereotypical Native American caricatures and iconography, while teaching students and the general public about American Indian history.”
In a written statement, NAGA Board Member Eunice Davidson Wicanhpiwastewin (Good Star Woman) said that SB21-116 discriminates against the plaintiffs “by conferring benefits on non-Native American bystanders who are not the targets of racism and discrimination with regard to Native American names, logos and imagery. One of NAGA’s primary goals is to partner with school districts to reappropriate Native American names as honorifics in order to reclaim their meaning and to teach non-Native American students about Native American history.”
Backers of SB21-116 have said the mascots and names are denigrating and humiliating. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past, but obviously did not pass until this year. Many Native Americans testified in favor of the bill in committee hearings, sharing the negative impact such mascots and imagery have had on them.

Darius Smith, who is Navajo, told The Denver Post last week that although NAGA purports to speak for the “silenced majority” of Native Americans, it does not have credibility or represent the way many American Indians feel about the issue.
“…there’s really good reputable research and study at universities by organizations that tell the truth rather than the fly-by-night organizations,” Smith told the Post.
NAGA is challenging SB21-116’s constitutionality because it bans all American Indian names and imagery — lumping them all under the term “mascot” — but does not this for other groups, said attorney William Trachman of Lakewood-based Mountain States Legal Foundation, which is working with NAGA in Colorado.
The more than 20 Colorado schools with Native American mascots have until June 1, 2022, to make the change, or face monthly fines of $25,000. Yuma-1 has estimated making the change will cost well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Following extensive public input, “Tribe” and “Yetis” are the leaders for Yuma’s new mascot.