OLYMPIA - The Colville Confederated Tribes have signed in support of a bill currently in front of the Washington Legislature that would ban the inappropriate use of tribal imagery by public schools across the state.
HB-1356 would prohibit public schools from using Native American names, symbols or images as school mascots, logos or team names after Jan. 1, 2022.
“The regalia that Native Americans wear are intertwined within their culture,” said State Rep. Debra Lekanoff (D-Bow), the bill’s primary sponsor, during a public hearing in the House Education Committee, Feb. 5. “It is intertwined within their laws. It is a generational, cultural teaching that runs through our bloodlines. Our regalia is the essence of who we are. When we see others in a mascot form in our regalia, using our deer hide, using the salmon skin, using the feathers, using them as mockery this is not a way we see being honored as the first Washingtonians, the first Americans of this great country.”
According to Lekanoff, there are 31 schools using Native American nicknames or imagery in Washington.
“Native Americans are not animals,” said Lekanoff. “They are not symbols. They are people, communities, nations who deserve respect and dignity.”
The proposed bill allows for the phasing out of uniforms or other materials bearing Native American names, symbols, or images as mascots, logos or team names if specified requirements are met.
An exception built within the bill allows public schools located within, or with enrollment boundaries that include a portion of “Indian Country” within the state if that school consults with and is approved by the applicable tribe or tribes.
The bill was heard in the executive committee, Feb. 12.