New bill would ban Washington state public schools from having Native American mascots

Some local high schools in Washington state could soon be required to change their mascot name as a bill was introduced Friday that would ban public schools from using Native American names, symbols, or images as mascots.

There are currently 31 Washington schools that still have native mascot name. The bill was heard in front of the house education committee, spearheaded by Representative Debra Lekanoff.

"It’s not respectful and it's not celebrating, its really dehumanizing of Indigenous people," said Bellingham High ASB President, Logan Foy.

"Up until the year 2000, our mascot logo was actually an Indigenous person," Foy said.

Now the school's logo is of a hawk, but the team name is still the red raiders. Foy is one of the students on a taskforce that will rename the school’s team once and for all.

"This time around we really want to make sure we get it right for not only the indigenous students at our school but also the community who's been affected by different attitudes and discriminations that our mascot has long represented and been a manifestation on," said Foy.

Two Washington state schools have the name Indians as their mascot: Renton High School and North Central in Spokane. Ivy Pete is a junior there and is Paiute of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.

"In the center of my high school’s office there’s this glass case and inside there are two Indian mannequins that are dressed in full regalia and the first time I saw them, I thought ‘oh my gosh is that like animals in a zoo almost,’ it's representing this idea of a caged and defeated native American almost as if we're extinct," said Pete.

Though it hasn’t always been easy, she’s worked hard to open the eyes of faculty and fellow students about the detriment it causes Indigenous people to have images like these represent their football team.

"You don't have to look one certain to be indigenous and i think that is something that the system perpetuates by using these mascots," Pete said.

At just 16-years-old, Pete has brought her insight to the state Capitol, representing the legislative youth advisory council of Washington and working with state Representative Debra Lekanoff.

‘It's just a little bill, but it can mean so much for a young person who’s in high school who’s treated as if they’re not an equal to their peers," said Lekanoff.

She is the only Native American serving in the state legislature. She’s feeling hopeful about her bill that would end public school’s usage of Native American mascots.

"To have a little girl, her hair braided-looking like me, sitting on the bleachers and a hue great big mockery comes out of ‘kill the chiefs! kill the Indians’, making derogatory noises, and you see someone who looks like you and it’s a mockery," Lekanoff said.

In 10 years, she dreams of a day when a little girl who looks like her won’t have to have the feelings that so many indigenous people have before her.

"This bill is raising awareness to look to that person with respect, to look to that community and say I’m sorry I didn't know this was hurting you so so very bad as a person of color, as a Native American. It’s a time for our communities to heal. It’s a time for us to respect one another and it’s a time for us especially during this crisis to look to your neighbor and say you matter, and I respect you and am thankful for you and that’s what this bill really is," said Lekanoff.