Frederick High School is planning to retire its Warriors mascot and logos that include Native American imagery now that it is required by a new state law.
Gov. Jared Polis this week signed SB21-116, which fines schools $25,000 per month if they continue to use Native American imagery or names. Schools have until June 2022 to make changes. At least 25 schools in Colorado had derogatory mascots as of earlier this year.
Frederick High leaders have discussed the mascot and Indigenous imagery for years, including in 2015 when a similar bill was proposed but didn’t pass. In 2016, a Colorado governor’s commission recommended removing Native American mascots from schools, including Frederick High. Frederick High’s logo shows an arrowhead going through a capital “F.”
St. Vrain spokeswoman Kerri McDermid declined a request to interview either former Frederick Principal Brian Young or incoming Principal Russell Fox about the mascot change, instead sharing a letter Young sent to families in April.
“Warrior pride has been a part of our community for years, and in the past, we have worked closely with our local Native American leaders to ensure that our contemporary use of the Warrior mascot respected and honored them,” Young wrote in the letter.
He went on to say that the legislation prohibits public schools from using names and symbols that represent Native American culture and traditions. The “Warrior” name, in association with the traditional logos and imagery used to represent the school, is inconsistent with the proposed legislation, he wrote.
McDermid said Frederick’s mascot process will be similar to steps taken when choosing a mascot for a new school, with a committee sending its top recommendations to the school board for approval. Fox already has created a task force that includes students, teachers, staff members and community members to guide the mascot process, she said.
A recent story in Frederick High’s Scout student newspaper, which includes an image of a Native man in its masthead, dates the school’s use of Native American imagery to at least the late 1930s. Changing the mascot will require a large rebranding effort, according to the story, with the imagery and the Warrior name used on football helmets, in large murals in the commons and painted on the gym floor.
Chandler Hoel, who graduated from Frederick High in May and wrote an opinion piece in the student newspaper advocating for a mascot change, said the Warrior mascot itself isn’t particularly offensive but “contributes to the racist culture at our school.”
She said school’s students, who are mainly white, will wear headdresses and make “war” calls during games without understanding the culture they’re appropriating.
“While the ‘Warrior’ name is not necessarily derogatory, it is still used as a costume that was stolen from indigenous culture,” she wrote in an email. “Every piece of clothing, every stitch that they wear has something of significance, and I think the current mascot undermines the importance of these various traditions.”
She added that it’s important that the community and school are safe, welcoming places.
“We should not have a mascot that makes us look or seem offensive,” she wrote. “Removing a mascot will not apologize for years and years of oppression, but it is the least we can do as a school. We must do what we can to right the wrongs of the past.”
Other schools that have already changed their mascots include Loveland High School — formerly the Indians — and Bill Reed Middle School — formerly the Warriors — in the Thompson Valley School District.
To keep their mascots under the new law, schools must have a previous partnership with native tribes, as is the case with Arapahoe High School in Littleton. The Northern Arapaho have endorsed Arapahoe High’s Warrior mascot as part of a longstanding relationship with the school.
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