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Colorado considers banning Native American mascot in public schools

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) - Lawmakers are considering a proposal to ban Native American mascots in public schools and colleges after recent events brought the topic to light again.

The bill, which cleared the state Senate Education Committee on Thursday, would include a $25,000 monthly fine on Colorado public schools that use Native American mascots after June 1, 2022.

The committee passed amendments excluding schools that have or will seek agreements with local tribes, and schools on tribal lands.

This comes after the Cheyenne Mountain High School's school board voted to remove its Indian mascot last month, after pushback from local Native American organizations. Many of the school's alumni opposed the change and now oppose this bill.

"It's ridiculous, this is all cancel-culture stuff," said Sandra Matthews, who graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School in 1972. "If you don't learn your history, I mean we're on the path of repeating what was really bad years ago."

The now Washington Football Team also notably removed its Redskin mascot last year, revamping the national discussion, and several other states have already passed laws banning the Native American mascot in some capacity.

"It was demeaning as a child and now it's just blatantly offensive," said Raven Payment, a Native American who advocated for the ban during Thursday's committee hearing. "It hurts my heart because I know what our children are going to have to face when they see that."

Raven told us she, and other natives, see the mascot as mockery.

A commission of tribal members and state officials recommended schools remove Native American mascots back in 2015, under Governor John Hickenlooper, but many still remain.

"I use the term cautiously optimistic that we're going to make some positive progress," Payment said. "And it's not just progress for indigenous people, it's progress for all of us.

Right now, it's unclear when the bill will reach the state senate floor. We'll keep you updated on KRDO NewsChannel 13 and here on KRDO.com.

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Julia Donovan

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