As the Republican-lead Senate in Colorado is expected to kill a bill that would regulate Native American mascots in the state, the bill sponsor continues to be inundated with hate mail.
House Bill 1165, sponsored by House Representative Joe Salazar, a democrat, would require schools to receive approval from an all-Native American subcommittee regarding whether its mascot and moniker is offensive to Native American peoples.
On Monday, the bill squeaked out of the House Education Committee by a six to five party line vote. Salazar said he expects the bill to pass the House, but he’s less confident about the Senate.
According to sources, the Republicans in the Senate are slated to kill the bill if it passes the House.
Opponents of the bill say it’s unnecessary and that the government shouldn’t be involved in such decisions, but Salazar begs to differ and says he’s representing the needs of his constituents. He said Indian mascots harm the mental health of Native American youth and provide opportunities for bullying.
Salazar sent ICTMN several emails he has received since the bill passed the education committee. Salazar has been subjected to hate mail since he first introduced the bill in September 2014.
In an email, one constituent told Salazar that as a Christian, he is offended by the use of demons and devils as mascots.
“I request that you amend your mascot bill to include one other area of great concern,” Allan Sharka said. “As a man of faith, it is extremely offensive that schools choose mascots with the name of Devil, Demon, or a similar derivative. Understanding your concern about Native Americans, I am sure you would agree that people of faith, which far outnumber Native Americans in Colorado, feel a similar concern.”
Salazar responded to Sharka by saying he will not “offer or consider such an amendment” and said the United States’ mistreatment of Native Americans was often justified with Biblical text.
“You believe that because there are more ‘people of faith’ than American Indians that I should use my bill (a bill that is specifically entitled the use of American Indian mascots) as a vehicle to address the use of demons and devils as mascots,” he wrote.
“American Indians are neither demons nor devils. They are not animals, colors, food or mythological creatures. They are not a profession. They are human beings who have been exploited and experienced genocide for centuries. Much of the exploitation/genocide came through religious justification,” Salazar added.
Salazar concluded his exchange by inviting Sharka to testify at the Senate and to share his thoughts in a room full of Native Americans.
Monday’s testimony, which started in the afternoon and lasted into the evening, included comments for and against the bill. Ryan Redcorn and Bobby Wilson of the comedy troupe the 1491s were in attendance and spoke to the need of the legislation.
During the opening remarks, a committee member said he was concerned that without Native American mascots the Native American culture wouldn’t be visible.
Wilson told the representative that his assumption was “hilarious.”
“And I’m a comedian,” he added.
The bill will be heard next in the House Appropriations Committee before it heads to the floor for debate.