Kiowa Schools waiting for decision on Indians mascot

Letter, formal agreement, curriculum changes submitted to state panel

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The Kiowa School District will find out May 19 whether its efforts to satisfy the terms of a 2021 state law will allow it to keep its Kiowa Indians mascot and iconography.
 
The law, Colorado Senate Bill 21-116, generally prohibits the use of Native American mascots by schools, but creates an exemption for schools that reach a satisfactory agreement with a federally recognized tribe.
 
The school district has submitted a Feb. 16 letter from the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma giving approval to the district's request to continue using the Kiowa Indians name, followed by a March 27 formal memorandum of understanding in which the tribe gives the same approval. The school district has an elementary curriculum teaching about Native American tribes, and the school board recently voted to create a one-semester high school course on Native American history that would be required to graduate.
 
However, no decision will be made by the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs until May 19. If the CCIA turns down the school district's request, the Kiowa School District would be expected to remove all Native American names and imagery by June 1 or incur a $25,000-per-month penalty.
 
Danielle Ullom, the Kiowa School Board treasurer, has been at the forefront of efforts to keep the Kiowa Indians name. While emphasizing that any pushback against a denial by the CCIA would have to be an action by the full school board, she said the board could be prepared to fight if the CCIA turns down the request.
 
“They know we're within the law and they don't want to approve it,” Ullom said. “The CCIA is not following the law. They're adding their own stipulations.”
 
The CCIA considered the Kiowa School District's request for an exemption at its March 10 meeting, when the Feb. 16 letter from the Kiowa Tribe was in hand, but no commissioner moved to remove the school district from the list of violators of the state law.
 
One pertinent section of the law, as read aloud by CCIA Executive Director Kathryn Redhorse at the March 10 meeting, is:
 
“Any such agreement entered into pursuant to this section between a public school and a federally-recognized Indian tribe may allow any American Indian mascot that is culturally affiliated with that federally-recognized Indian tribe as determined at the discretion of the tribe's governing body. If an agreement entered into pursuant to this subsection (2)(b)(iii) between a federally recognized Indian tribe and a public school is terminated by either party, the public school has one year from the date of termination to discontinue its use of its American Indian mascot before the penalties set forth in subsection (3) of this section apply.”
 
Meeting attendee Rick Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, said, “It would seem that the letter does meet the expectations of an agreement.”
 
Redhorse then went on to read a second section of the law, which says the prohibition on Native American mascots does not apply to “[t]he ability of any federally recognized Indian tribe to create and maintain a relationship or agreement with a public school that fosters goodwill, emphasizes education and supports a curriculum that teaches American Indian history, and encourages a positive cultural exchange. Such relationships and agreements may include important historical figures, names, images, tribal names, and more.”
 
Ullom said that following the March 10 meeting at which no motion was made to remove the Kiowa School District from the list of law violators, Redhorse told Ullom via telephone that the CCIA would require a formal memorandum of understanding between the Kiowa Tribe and the school district, which the district has provided.
 
A May 5 request for comment from Redhorse by the Elbert County News was unsuccessful, though a spokesperson sent a written statement saying, “The Elbert School District C-2 shared a signed MOU with the Kiowa Tribe and their plan to create a Native American curriculum to be taught in the schools with the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs at a Special Session held on April 15, 2022. The CCIA Commissioners will vote on whether a school is out of compliance with SB21-116 at the May 19th quarterly meeting, as per the implementation guidance and timeline documents that were shared with schools on the SB21-116 noncompliance list.”
 
Ullom shared her view that the CCIA has been unprepared, with some members apparently not reading the packets distributed to commissioners before the March 10 and April 15 meetings. Both meetings featured CCIA members asking about the content of materials submitted by the Kiowa School District, with Redhorse saying the Kiowa Tribe's Feb. 16 letter and March 27 memorandum of understanding had been sent by CCIA staff to commissioners in advance of the meetings.
 
The CCIA is chaired by Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera, the only elected official on the commission. Other members are appointed by the governor's office, many representing Native American tribes, and others come from government agencies.
 
The exemption being sought by the Kiowa School District is similar to that given to the Arapahoe High School Warriors and Strasburg High School Indians, both of whom had approvals from the Northern Arapaho Tribe prior to the effective date of the 2021 law.
 
To see general information about the CCIA, including a link to the list of schools still considered as violators of the mascot law, go to tinyurl.com/mainccia
 
To see a list of CCIA meetings and agendas, go to tinyurl.com/cciameetings
 
To read the text of the state law generally banning the use of Native American mascots and iconography, go to tinyurl.com/mascotlaw
 
To read the memorandum of understanding between the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Kiowa School District, go to tinyurl.com/kiowamou
 
To view the Kiowa School District portion of the CCIA's March 10 meeting, watch from 4:21:15 to 4:32:36 at tinyurl.com/march10meet
 
To view the Kiowa School District portion of the CCIA's April 15 meeting, watch from 34:10 to 49:40 at tinyurl.com/april15meet
 
Kiowa Indians, Colorado, mascot, Native American, Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs

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