New Laws Do Away With Racist Mascots, Provide In-State Tuition for Colorado Tribes

DENVER, CO– Governor Jared Polis today signed two bills that will ban American Indian mascots in Colorado public schools and provide in-state tuition to American Indian students who are members of tribes with historical ties to Colorado.

“For far too long, Coloradans have had to live with the pain perpetuated by racist mascots in our public schools,“ said Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce CIty. “It’s taken years to get to this point, but today we are finally getting rid of hurtful mascots that we know have created hostile environments and have impacted students’ mental health. These two laws will make Colorado a more just and inclusive state by investing in the education and wellbeing of our American Indian students  and making our public colleges and universities more accessible to indigenous people with historic ties to this land.”

“Today, we took an important step forward in our responsibility to create positive learning environments for all Colorado’s kids,” said Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. “My district and our state is enriched by the presence of the Southern Ute. No longer will we make American Indian students feel less than in their own classrooms.” 

SB21-116, sponsored by Reps. Benavidez and McLachlan, prohibits the use of American Indian mascots in any public school or institution of higher education, allowing one year to comply with the new law. The law follows on the work of the 2016 Governor’s Commission to Study American Indian Representations in Public Schools which was asked to “facilitate discussion around the use of American Indian imagery and names used by institutions of public education and develop recommendations for the Governor and General Assembly regarding the use of such imagery and names.” The Commission’s number one recommendation was “the elimination of American Indian mascots, imagery, and names, particularly those that are clearly derogatory and offensive, and strongly recommends that communities review their depictions in facilitated public forums.” SB21-116 puts this recommendation into action.

SB21-029, sponsored by Speaker Garnett and Rep. Benavidez, would require that institutions of higher education adopt policies to charge in-state tuition to Native American students whose tribes have historical ties to Colorado. According to the Colorado Commission on Indian Affairs and History Colorado, 48 federally recognized American Indian tribes have historical ties to Colorado. 

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