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Proposal would give Nebraska schools funds to switch out Native American mascots

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Cash incentive seen as creative approach to curb what many called disrespectful use of images

The mascots of 22 Nebraska schools offend Jacqelle Lane. They come, she said, in the form of a chief, a brave, two chieftains, seven Indians and 11 warriors.

Native-themed caricatures — often in warlike or demeaning poses — on gym walls, sports jerseys and megaphones mock a culture and do nothing to advance the attainment or self-esteem of Native American students, Lane testified at a legislative hearing Tuesday.

Rather, she said, they typically perpetuate an inaccurate message about Natives: “They’re not like you and me, they’re others.”

The policy teaching fellow for the Nebraska State Education Association was among nearly a dozen proponents delivering similar discontent to the Legislature’s Education Committee over Native American mascots used by schools with few to no Native student representation.

$200,000 per school

Legislative Bill 1027, introduced by Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha, drew no opponents, although two people sent letters objecting to the measure, which is designed to provide financial incentive for 22 Nebraska schools to voluntarily change their mascot.

We’re not honored by these mascots – Judi Gaiashkibos, Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs

With a more drastic ban on Native American mascots stalled in the courts of states such as Colorado, Hunt said she decided to take the different, financial incentive approach. Several called it a good start.

The Education Committee took no action on advancing the bill to the full Legislature for discussion. If ultimately approved, the bill would award up to $200,000 to each of the 22 schools to offset the cost of changing a mascot.

The Nebraska Department of Education would establish procedures for the grants. Maximum output by the state would be $4.4 million, according to a fiscal analysis.

Judi gaiashkibos, executive director of the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs, did not intend at first to give her full support to the proposal. She prefers an outright ban, she said, and felt that the retooled legislation “dangled a carrot, in a way bribing the schools to do the right thing.” 

After hearing others testify, she reconsidered. “Sometimes you have to do things that are creative to get the job done,” she said.

Not everyone convinced

“We’re not honored by these mascots,” gaiashkibos said. Of school mascots she’s aware of, she said, they depict  either an animal or an Indian. “I don’t think that’s right.”

Sen. Dave Murman of Glenvil, a member of the Education Committee, asked for studies and research that some speakers cited in linking the mascots with negative impacts and even suicide of young people. At one point, he said, he wasn’t convinced that the intent of schools is “always bad” or that schools want to be offensive.

Testimony acknowledged that schools or communities may have originally adopted Native-themed icons or mascots to honor a tribe.  

Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln spoke up to say the concerning part is white people appropriating another culture and their sacred tribal symbols.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nebraska Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Cate Folsom for questions: info@nebraskaexaminer.com. Follow Nebraska Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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