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North Dakota group sues Colorado for law banning American Indian mascots

The Native American Guardian’s Association filed the litigation in U.S. District Court in Colorado on Nov. 2. The lawsuit names a number of Colorado officials, including Gov. Jared Polis.

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A Devils Lake-based organization has filed a lawsuit against the state of Colorado for banning the use of American Indian mascots in a law passed earlier this year.

The Native American Guardian’s Association filed the litigation in U.S. District Court in Colorado on Nov. 2. The lawsuit names a number of Colorado officials, including Gov. Jared Polis. The lawsuit claims that the Colorado law, signed in June and which bans Colorado schools from using American Indian mascots, is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

“Imagine a state law that barred schools from using the name or image of an African-American individual on its logos or letterhead. That would be the end of school names honoring Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, or Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas,” the lawsuit reads.

According to its website, the nonprofit organization “celebrates and promotes the rich history, legacies, and many national contributions of First Nation's people which have historically been woven into the fabric of American identity.” It says it is an “organization advocating for increased education about Native Americans, especially in public educational institutions, and greater recognition of Native American Heritage through the high profile venues of sports and other public platforms.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that the organization opposes the use of American Indian “mascot performers and characters that mock Native American heritage,” but says “culturally appropriate Native American names, logos and imagery serve to honor Native Americans, and to help public schools neutralize offensive and stereotypical Native American caricatures and iconography, while teaching students and the general public about American Indian history.”

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According to the Denver Post , as of this summer there were more than 20 schools in Colorado that had Native American mascots that need to be changed by June 2022. The penalty for breaking the law includes fines of $25,000 a month, the Post report noted. However, exceptions were made for schools in the state that already had an agreement with a tribe.

The governor’s office has not yet commented on the lawsuit.

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