In 2015 then-governor John Hickenlooper signed an executive order that created the commission to study American Indian representations in public schools in hopes of facilitating a discussion around the use of Native American imagery within public high schools. The commission was made up of 15 individuals from federally recognized tribes, Colorado’s American Indian population, institutions of public education, state agencies, and community stakeholders.
Sixteen high schools in Colorado use the depiction of a Native American as their mascots, and some have taken steps to better understand the controversy surrounding Indigenous mascots. No Colorado high school mascots were changed as a result of the commission.
Schools taking action or facilitating discussion:
Arapahoe Warriors: In 1993 the Arapahoe school district invited the Arapaho Nation from the Wind River Indian Reservation to help forge a relationship with the district and the people in which its Warrior mascot represents. The Arapaho Nation endorsed the school’s use of the Warrior logo, designed by a Northern Arapaho artist. The groups also signed a proclamation to continue its cultural and educational relationship. In 1994 the school renamed its gymnasium in honor of Arapaho Elder Anthony Sitting Eagle as a permanent reminder of the mutual respect shared between the school and the Arapaho Tribe.
Eaton Reds: In 2002 a group marched in Eaton on the high school’s graduation day to pressure the school board to change its mascot that featured a frowning, large-nosed Indian in a loincloth. In 2016 the Eaton student newspaper invited the Commission to Study Native American Representatives to hold a meeting to discuss the use of its nickname Reds and its Native American depiction. Prior to the commission meeting, the district had few depictions of the original mascot on its campus, as sports teams typically used the school’s red ‘E’ logo with feathers attached.
Lamar Savages: The Commission to Study Native American Representatives facilitated a discussion surrounding the Savage mascot, which met some negativity from members of the Lamar community. Committee members described the meeting as uncomfortable and sometimes hostile, and said the school requested police to be present at the meeting. Former students, and at least one student who was enrolled at the time spoke at the meeting, leaning on the historical nature of the Savage mascot, and argued that it would do a disservice to the community to remove a mascot that has been around for generations. “I’m a Savage, you’re a Savage, this is Savage Country,” one community speaker said. Lamar has not made any changes to its mascot following the 2016 meeting and declined to speak publicly about the mascot controversy on a recent podcast surrounding the issue.
Loveland Indians: In 2015 Loveland requested help from the Lakota Sioux to redesign its logo. Representatives from the tribe also toured the school to help identify symbols that may be offensive or disrespectful, such as the Indian logo on the floor of the gymnasium, where people could walk over it. While Loveland’s mascot is still the Indians the school logo is no longer depicted as a Native American. However, a petition was created June 27 to remove the Loveland mascot and has more than 4,300 signatures.
Mountain Valley Indians: In 2019 Mountain Valley superintendent Travis Garoutte penned an informational blog post on the district’s new Indian insignia, which “captures both historical and geographical perspectives of Saguache,” which was once inhabited by the Utes. “The Mountain Valley School insignia, which was inspired by Ute artist Kree Lopez, portrays the silhouette of a Ute rider on horseback,” Garoutte wrote. The symbol also features seven black feather tips that represent the seven Ute bands that inhabited Colorado. “We desire to create a respectful and welcoming environment at Mountain Valley. One that accurately represents the history and culture of our area, a badge of honor for our students, our school, and Saguache,” Garoutte wrote.
Strasburg Indians: Through the 2016 Commission to Study Native American Representations in Public Schools, Strasburg solidified a strong relationship to a local Native American tribe. The school opened an important dialogue and educational pathway for students and members of the community to learn about negative connotations related to the school’s Indian mascot. Strasburg received a blessing from the Northern Arapaho Tribe for its use of the Indian mascot and presented a formal resolution to the tribe acknowledging the partnership and the support of respectful relations, increased American Indian education, and cultural exchanges to the tribal business council. Ernest House Jr., the former executive director of Indian affairs, said he has used Strasburg as an example of the good that can come from an open dialogue about the use of Native American imagery. “Now not only are they using that image respectfully and with the tribe’s consent, and also teaching American Indian history in their school and that’s a win-win across the board,” he said.
Other Native American mascots in Colorado:
Arickaree Indians Mustangs
Cheyenne Mountain Indians
La Veta Redskins
Grand Junction Central Warriors
Weldon Valley Warriors
Mascot changes in Colorado:
Arvada Bulldogs: In 1993 Arvada changed its mascot from Redskins with a depiction of a stereotypical, large-nosed Indian with a headdress and tomahawk to the Arvada Bulldogs.
Far Northeast Warriors: Formerly the Montbello High School Warriors, in 1996 the school changed its mascot from an Indian to a Futuristic Warrior.
Palmer Terrors: In 1945 the school adopted an Indian caricature named Eaglebeak as the school's mascot. In 1987, after pressure mounted from a local group claiming the caricature was derogatory to Native Americans, the Terrors mascot was changed to a bald eagle, forging an Eagle Beak legend that the original Eaglebeak Indian mascot passed and was reincarnated as a bald eagle.
Editor's note: Were there additional historic mascot changes surrounding Native American culture in Colorado? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org