Minnesota could ban Native American mascots for schools

Minnesota lawmakers are considering a bill that would prevent schools from using Native American mascots.

Supporters for the bill argued Wednesday for it to be included in the state's omnibus bill. If passed, it would restrict school districts from using "names, symbols, or images that depicts or refers to an American Indian Tribe, individual, custom, or tradition to be used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name of the district or school within the district."

Schools can seek an exemption, but those details are still being worked out.

In recent years and decades, many schools across Minnesota and the country, along with professional sports franchises, have chosen to rename or re-brand due to concerns about offensive mascots. Several other states have also gone through with their own bans on Native American mascots.

"We want to just make sure that any of those images, any of the words that are used or the names that are used, are used respectfully and appropriately and not used in any derogatory or racist use," said the author of the Senate version of the bill, Mary Kunesh, of New Brighton.

FOX 9 is only aware of a handful of schools this legislation could affect:

  • Benson Braves (Benson, MN)
  • Deer River Warriors (Deer River, MN)
  • Esko Eskomos (Esko, MN)
  • Menahga Braves (Menahga, MN)
  • Sleepy Eye Indians (Sleepy Eye, MN)
  • Warroad Warriors (Warroad, MN)
  • Wheaton Warriors (Wheaton, MN)

A group of Warroad residents showed up to voice their opposition to changing their team's name and logo at a hearing before the Mn House Education Finance Committee.

They say the current logo was designed by an indigenous artist, okayed by the National Coalition Against Racism In Sports and Media, and is trademarked and owned by the school's American Indian Parent Advisory Committee so the sale of every item with the logo on it generates money benefiting indigenous youth.

Former Warroad High School and NHL player Henry Boucha told legislators his great, great grandfather sold the plot of land for the first school in Warroad, and asked that the name Warriors be used for athletic competition.

"Our ancestors shed a lot of blood there at Warroad, and we certainly want to continue using and honoring the name in the future," said Boucha. 

With little action so far and no House companion bill, the legislation is unlikely to be approved this session if it isn't included in the omnibus bill.