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A Word With The Exec Of The Colorado Commission Of Indian Affairs On The School Mascots Report

Ernest House Jr. Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.
Bente Birkeland
Ernest House Jr. Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs.

A Colorado commission studying American Indian representations in public schools released a report that recommends that schools not use American Indian mascots. However, if the schools do choose to do so, they should partner with a tribe to make sure it is done in a respectful way.

Right now, 30 Colorado schools use some type of American Indian mascot or imagery.

Bente Birkeland speaks with Ernest House Jr., Executive Director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs and member of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe

The commission went to four schools to bring American Indians, community members, school boards, and students together. This follows failed attempts at the statehouse to ban these types of mascots.

Interview Highlights With Ernest House Jr.

On How The Commission Worked

"This was a way to engage in a different approach. Community conversations, a dialogue, no threat of penalties against schools, just getting an understanding of the issue and to bring awareness about the issue."

"Every one of these communities is so unique; they're all different. They all bring their own history, tradition and pride to that particular mascot, image or logo. We knew that there was going to be potential for a lot of very passionate representations and opinions on both sides of the issue."

On Whether Schools Understood Why American Indians Found The Images Offensive

"That was a big question. We heard from some people in the community of maybe never being contacted by a tribe. Which I think in the last 10 years this is really the first time the Commission of Indian Affairs and really been a part of the conversation of actually bringing numerous voices to the same table."

"A partnership with these tribes is a win-win situation. A big request by these schools is they would like more information on American Indian history. They would like more information on those tribes that were once located in that area."

Read The Report: Governor's Commission To Study American Indian Representations In Public Schools [.pdf]

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Bente Birkeland
Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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