STRASBURG, Colo. (KDVR) — Across the country, professional sports teams and schools continue to distance themselves from controversial Native American mascots.
In Colorado, more than a dozen schools have changed or removed their mascots in the past few years, following a new state law. That law allowed schools to keep their Native American mascots only if they received permission and developed a partnership with a federally recognized tribe.
In the town of Strasburg, the “Indians” have done just that, through a relationship with the Northern Arapaho Tribe that continues to strengthen.
“It’s a strong bond,” Gail Ridgeley said, “and I think it was meant to be.”
Ridgeley is a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe and works hand-in-hand with a new council of 10 students at the high school.
Tribal elders visit Strasburg High
Friday, the entire middle school and high school crammed into the gymnasium for a special hoop dance and drum circle ceremony. It’s the first time elders from the tribe have made the trip down from their reservation in central Wyoming.
“It’s the first time they got to visit the school, and the meaning behind the partnership, and they were so impressed,” Ridgeley said.
Students and tribal leaders have worked together to make sure the Indian mascot is viewed with a sense of pride.
A new logo designed by a tribal member now lines chairs and walls inside the school, and a logo of a chief that once sat at half-court has been replaced with a Strasburg “S.”
Tribal members say the old logo placement was disrespectful because people were running over it during sporting events.
“I think that they’re honestly really happy to see our passion for this, and to see that we want to make sure that they are being honored in a way that’s appropriate, but still gets the point across that this was their land, and this was their home,” senior Ella Ringer said.
Fellow senior Jasmine Parra is the president of the new Strasburg Northern Arapaho Partnership and said it’s been an honor to build the relationship.
“I do think it’s a symbol of pride in our community,” Parra said. “We have that responsibility almost to make sure our whole community is educated.”