Photo courtesy Bobby Wilson
ICTMN Culture Editor Simon Moya-Smith, left, and House Representative Joe Salazar, center, discuss an Indian mascot bill Salazar sponsored at his home in Thornton, Colorado. The bill was killed by Senate Republicans Wednesday in Denver.

GOP Kills Indian Mascot Bill in Colorado; Sponsor Vows to Bring It Back in 2016

Simon Moya-Smith

Colorado State House Representative Joe Salazar vowed to reintroduce a bill next year that was swiftly cut down by the Republican-lead Senate late Wednesday.

The bill, had it passed, would’ve established an all-Native American subcommittee to assess whether a school’s Indian mascot is appropriate. Currently, there are more than 30 schools across the state with a Native American mascot and moniker.

Since the bill was introduced, Republicans at the State Capitol have argued such decisions should be made at the local level. Salazar, however, said legislation is necessary to protect Native American youths. Studies have proven that Native American mascots and corresponding language harm the mental health and stability of Native American students.

Following the death of the bill, Salazar sent ICTMN this statement:

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, by Senate Republicans fulfilling their promise to kill HB 1165 – Concerning the Use of American Indian Mascots. On the same night, Senate Republicans killed a bill to stop racial profiling by law enforcement. It is evident that Colorado Republicans care very little for American Indians and communities of color. We should be saddened as a state to know that one political party cannot enter into the 21st Century with the desire to care for the well-being of all people. Surely, if children in their communities suffered the harm that American Indian children suffer as a result of the use of racist and derogatory words and images, they would stop such behavior. I vow to bring the bill back next year and to continue the conversation.”

In March, several members of the comedy troupe, the 1491s, traveled to Denver to testify in favor of Salazar’s bill. After several hours of testimony, including comments from Native American teens who’ve experienced bullying at schools with Native American mascots, the bill eked out of the education committee 6 to 5.

The bill died Wednesday in the Senate State Affairs Committee in the same fashion it passed the House Education Committee – by one vote. It was killed by a thin 3 to 2 margin.

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