Bills to Grant In-State Tuition to American Indians & End the Use of Discriminatory Mascots Become Law


DENVER, CO – Governor Polis signed two bills into law June 28th, 2021 that aim to support Colorado’s American Indian population. The first would require certain colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition to American Indians, and the other would ban the use of discriminatory mascots in public schools.

SB21-029, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, would require public state colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition to students who are a member of an American Indian tribe with historical ties to Colorado.

“Today brings us one step closer to ensuring educational opportunities are accessible to American Indian students with tribal ties to the land we now know as Colorado,” said Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder). “This is an important step in appreciating the tribal nations historically tied to Colorado, as well as acknowledging Colorado’s painful history and the forced removal that has had a severely negative impact on Native nations.”

The Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs as well as History Colorado maintain the list of tribes with historic ties to Colorado – including at least 50 distinct communities. According to the United States Census Bureau population survey, approximately 19% of college-aged American Indian tribe members were enrolled in college in 2016, compared to 41% of the total college-aged population – the lowest percentage of all race and ethnicity groups surveyed.

SB21-116, sponsored by Senator Jessie Danielson, would prohibit the use of American Indians as mascots in Colorado public schools.

“Not only have Indigenous Peoples had their homeland stolen but their culture has been continually trivialized and appropriated,” said Senator Danielson (D-Wheat Ridge). “For decades, schools and sports teams have used degrading imagery as mascots – calling themselves the ‘Savages,’ ‘Reds,’ or ‘Indians.’ Not only is this practice harmful and offensive, but it is in direct defiance of requests from Indigenous Coloradans who have demanded for years that these derogatory mascots be discontinued. It’s time that we listen to Native leaders and end this practice.”

Specifically, the bill prohibits any K-12 school or institution of higher education in Colorado from using an American Indian mascot after June 1, 2022. A failure to comply would result in a one time $25,000 fine for the school district or charter school institute and subsequent monthly fines for institutions of higher education. These fines would then be collected in the State Education Fund.

The prohibition does not apply to:

Any agreement that exists prior to June 30, 2021, between a federally recognized Indian tribe (tribe) and a public school, although the tribe has the right and ability to revoke the agreement at any time;

Any public school that is operated by a tribe or with the approval of a tribe and existing within the boundaries of the tribe’s reservation; The ability of a 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. Any such agreement may allow any mascot that is culturally affiliated with the tribe, as determined at the discretion of the tribe’s governing body.

Filed Under: City of LamarFeaturedHistoryMedia ReleaseSchool


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