DENVER — Only months after a group of Lamar graduates shed light on their school's darkness and pushed for their own school to change their nickname from "Savages," Colorado Lawmakers are pushing to ensure that all offensive mascots will be eradicated by next summer.
A bill, sponsored by Wheat Ridge Democrat Sen. Jessie Danielson, proposes that all schools must ban American Indian mascots by June 2022 or will face monthly fines of $25,000.
Similar bills have failed through the Colorado Legislature, as recently as 2015, but Rick Waters, the Co-Executive Director of the Denver Indian Center, believes this time will be different.
"With more heightened awareness, not only in the state but in the country, we thought this was just as good a time as any," he said.
Last year, The Thompson School District voted unanimously to retire the "Indians" mascot from Loveland High School and "Warriors" mascot from Bill Reed Middle School.
Senior Zack Rakowsky was not necessarily opposed to the decision, but was certainly left confused.
"It was kind of hard to get the messages through to everybody, it was hard to have that conversation, because not everybody was understanding," he said.
The high school voted on "Red Wolves" as the new mascot, but has not implemented the change yet. The athletic teams continued the 2020-21 seasons as simply "Loveland." Rakowsky feels that more education could have helped him and his classmates acclimate to the change better.
"I would've loved to have known why people were offended and what was going on it with it and everything," he said.
Allow Waters to lend his help toward the education process. While it's not egregious on its face, he says the word "Indian," as a mascot, is even "casually racist."
"Basically, in a sense, you're dehumanizing a group of people," Waters said. "We are your neighbors, your coworkers, your friends, your schoolmates, but yet, what's embedded in the American dominant society is the 'chop', or the imagery of the big nose, or the war dance, or almost a cultural appropriation which is not accurate."
Nor is it helpful to the advancement of their people.
"When our young people see that and we're trying to build self-determination and self-reliance in our young people, then that's just another hurdle they have to get over with in terms of knowing that they are just as good as anybody else."
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