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Proposed Bill Would Ban Native Mascots in Colorado; Sponsor Gets Hate Mail

An elected official in Colorado has received an onslaught of hate mail since he announced his plan to introduce a bill to ban Native American mascots throughout the state.

House Representative Joe Salazar said most of the hate mail accuses him of being politically correct and excoriates him for addressing the mascot issue instead of handling other state matters. Salazar begs to differ. “Now is the time to address issues that have been ignored for so long,” he said.

His bill would require the more than one dozen schools in Colorado with a Native American mascot to change their logo and name or lose state funding, unless a school has an established relationship and permission from an Indian nation.

Salazar provided ICTMN with several of the emails he has received from constituents who oppose his bill. Some messages poke at Salazar for being too far on the left.

“Isn’t there something more important you could be addressing [than] school mascots?” writes one. “It’s a waste of time, money and just plain stupid. But what should I expect from a Democrat?”

Another person wrote to Salazar arguing he should focus on undocumented persons and likened Native American mascots to animals.

“I think that your bill is outrageous,” she wrote. “Do you really believe that schools are being derogatory because of their mascot name? If that is the case, then we shouldn't use animal names, cowboys, colors foods or anything as peoples feelings might be hurt. I mean, I love the color green so don't use it because it offensive to me. Mascot names have been around for many years, probably before you were born, and because one person gets upset it's all over. There are so many other issues that need to be addressed such as illegals and you are worried about school mascots. If you used your time wisely this state may actually become better. Get some new issues to focus on, please.”

Salazar said he has invited the opposition to a meeting on September 10 at the Denver Indian Family Resource Center. He said the meeting is to provide the community with “ownership of the bill.” The meeting will be from 4:30-7 p.m.

So far, he said, none of the opposition has accepted his invitation. “They’re not coming. We invite them to meet the community then they don’t want to show up. It’s a sanctimonious attitude,” he said.

Former Colorado State Senator Suzanne Williams, a Comanche, introduced a similar bill in 2010, but it was pulled in committee due to a lack of support.

Salazar said he has no intention of withdrawing the bill. He said he will push it all the way through the legislature. “I’m not pulling this bill,” he said. “It’s a different day here in Colorado.”

Should the bill become law, one of the schools that would be required to change its name is the Lamar High School Savages. The school’s mascot is an Indian. Salazar said Lamar High School’s reluctance to change its name and logo is a prime example of why the bill is necessary.

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“There’s a lot of pride for being a Lamar Savage," Lamar City Councilman Kirk Crespin told The Denver Post. “Why should we have to go through the state to get a mascot approved that's been around for decades?”

Salazar said the argument of school pride and tradition is a weak one. “It’s an appalling argument,” he said. “[The word ‘savage’] will never take on a new meaning. The definition in itself is something that doesn’t connote anything positive.”