NESPELEM – Colville School District Superintendent Pete Lewis and Colville High School Principal Kevin Knight met via Zoom, April 12, with the Colville Business Council Education and Employment Committee regarding House Bill 1356, proposed legislation that will ban the use of Native American names, symbols and images as public school mascots, logos and team names at most public schools across Washington if signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.
The meeting came the same day, that - in a 90-8 vote in favor of approving the bill - the House concurred with changes made in the Senate, moving the legislation to the governor’s desk.
Once Governor Jay Inslee signs the measure, the ban would take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.
Under this measure, school districts would have some time to phase out the team name, logo or mascot, but would be required to select a new mascot by Dec. 31 to take effect by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
However, the ban does not apply to schools located on tribal lands or to schools that are in counties adjacent to Native American areas under the circumstance that the nearest tribe is consulted and authorizes the use of the name.
Colville High School is on the list with a handful of other schools across the state that will have to change their name, unless they receive authorization and/or permission to use the name.
The Colville Indians is the current name for Colville’s High School; their mascot is a logo of a Native American from the side view.
The Colville Business Council that were present wanted more time to discuss the matter and to gather more information on the issue.
CBC member Andy Joseph, acting-Chair of the Education and Employment Committee, had some requests of his own.
“If you could explain the bill to the Colville High School students, what are their thoughts?” asked Joseph. “I would like to see education on who we are and where the name Colville actually comes from. It’s not actually the real name of the tribe that was there, but that’s part of the history, I guess.”
“I just don’t want to see like the Tomahawk chops or head dresses. That’s when its offensive,” said CBC member Jarred Erickson of Nespelem District.
A timeline was given to Knight and Lewis from April 25 to July 24 on when the matter could be brought back up and discussed with more information provided.
An estimate from the Washington State Office Of Superintendent of Public Schools has around 35 schools that currently use Native American names, images or symbols.
A fiscal note attached to the bill notes that costs to school districts would vary based on the number of items that would need to be replaced, such as sports and club uniforms, flags, banners and other materials.
The only Native American person in the state Legislature, Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow, brought forward this bill. The Colville Tribes signed in in support of the bill during public testimony in February.