Nicholas K. Geranios
SPOKANE, Wash. — A bill that would ban the use of Native American mascots from most public schools in Washington was passed out of committee on Friday and sent to the full Washington state House of Representatives.
The House Education Committee voted 11-2 in favor of the bill, which supporters say seeks to end the use of Native American mascots by next Jan. 1. Two Republicans voted against it.
Supporters of the bill contend such mascots do not honor individual tribes, but dehumanize Native Americans, erase the history of genocide and parody what indigenous people look like.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, an Alaska Native who is Tlingit and Aleut and the only Native American member of the Washington Legislature.
“Native Americans are not animals,” Lekanoff said during a recent public hearing on the measure. “They are people.”
House Bill 1356 seeks to ban Native American names, symbols and images for use as public school mascots, logos or team names. The ban does not apply to schools located within Native American areas, or to schools in counties adjacent to Native American areas. Washington state has 29 tribes.
The bill contends that the use of such names and symbols singles out Native Americans for derision and cultural appropriation. It fails to respect the cultural heritage of Native Americans or promote a productive relationship between governments.
The National Congress of American Indians says there are about 1,900 schools nationwide that continue to use tribal mascots. But there are only 31 in Washington state who do, Lekanoff has said.
“We have to respect everybody's culture,” state Rep. Alex Ybarra, R-Quincy, said Friday in support of the bill. “We have to listen to their points of view. This bill will help that effort.”
State Rep. Bob McCaslin, R-Spokane Valley, said he voted against the measure because he wanted to ensure that schools that have already consulted with tribes about the use of Native American mascots are accounted for. “There is no one-size-fits-all for every school district," he said.