Washington has now become the latest state to ban all Native American mascots at public schools.
Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed new legislation this week which bans “the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images as public school mascots, logos, or team names.”
The bill comes as the latest installment in the ongoing fight over the use of Native American imagery, particularly for sports teams. Opponents fought the pressure to remove Native American imagery for years, but the tide turned when the Washington Redskins changed the their name to the “Washington Football Team.”
Washington state lawmakers also put language in the bill that instructs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a grant to help schools pay for the changes to comply with the law, which would likely include new logos, uniforms and more.
“This bill will end the disrespectful use of Native American imagery in our public schools,” Inslee said when signing the legislation.
The bill easily passed the state’s House and Senate.
“The legislature finds that the use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school mascots, logos, or team names in public schools is antithetical to their mission of providing an equal education to all, and contrary to the goal of making schools safe and respectful learning environments,” the legislature reads. “The legislature finds also that certain mascots, logos, or team names that are or have been used by schools and other entities are uniquely discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for derision and cultural appropriation.”
Maine signed a similar bill into law in 2019, banning all Native American mascots from the state’s public schools.
“While Indian mascots were often originally chosen to recognize and honor a school’s unique connection to Native American communities in Maine, we have heard clearly and unequivocally from Maine tribes that they are a source of pain and anguish,” Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills said at the time. “A mascot is a symbol of pride, but it is not the source of pride. Our people, communities, and understanding and respect for one another are Maine’s source of pride and it is time our symbols reflect that.”