Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper created the Commission to Study American Indian Representation in Public Schools in Colorado through a 2015 executive order.  Representatives from federally recognized tribes, Colorado’s American Indian population, institutions of public education, state agencies, and community stakeholders make up the 15-member commission.   NARF Staff Attorney Matthew Campbell was a commission member.  On April 18, 2016, the commission released its final report on the use of Native American mascots and imagery in Colorado public schools.

After five months of community meetings and discussion, the commission established four guiding principles that can be taken on by local communities, educational institutions, state agencies and organizations. The principles outlined in the report include:

  • The elimination of American Indian mascots, imagery, and names as well as a strong recommendation for communities to review their depictions in facilitated public forums.
  • The recognition and respect of tribal sovereignty and a strong recommendation for schools to enter into formal relationships with federally recognized tribes should they wish to retain their American Indian imagery.
  • The recognition and respect of local control by elected boards of education and an active involvement of local communities, students, and citizens around the topic of American Indian mascots.
  • A strong educational focus and outreach.

NARF supports the commission’s principles, particularly the elimination of American Indian mascots, imagery, and names, and the respect for tribal sovereignty.  Given the documented harms that result from the use of these mascots and imagery, there is a national movement away from these depictions and uses in public schools, and Colorado has provided a great model for states and local communities to use moving forward.

The Governor’s statement and the Commission’s report are available from the state’s website.

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