In 2021, the Colorado Senate passed a bill prohibiting the use of American Indian Mascots in schools.
According to Senate Bill 116, starting June 1st, any public school using an American Indian Mascot will be subjected to a $25,000 fine per month. District Spokesman Matt Jenkins says Montrose County Schools assembled several committees, alumni, and staff to put time and effort into choosing their new mascot.
“Our students chose the Montrose High School Red Hawks as their first choice, Centennial Middle School students chose the bears as their choice to replace the braves, and we are towards the end of this process,” Jenkins says.
In addition to the fine, research shows continued use of Indian-related mascots undermines the self-esteem and mental health of native students and increased the likelihood that others may stereotype them as aggressive.
Still, pushback to change is common and for the families who’ve had generations walk the halls of Montrose High School and graduate as an “Indian”, Jenkins is working hard to make sure change comes easier.
“Change is hard. Anytime you take something that’s been around close to 100 years and you’re told you have to change it – That’s difficult. But I’ll say this – challenge as with any we came together as a community. we depended upon our kids’ school spirit and creativity,” continued Jenkins.
The good news is as of May 19th, the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs voted to approve two new school mascots in the Montrose School District. But one school in the district remains without a mascot.
“The new principal coming up with our next school year will work with PTA, work with students, and alumni and staff to determine what the best new Johnson Elementary mascot will be,” says Jenkins.
The Mascots may change but Jenkins assures us school spirit is roaring for Centennial Middle School Bears and soaring for Montrose High Red Hawks.