In compliance with Senate Bill 21-116, signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis on June 28, schools around the state of Colorado are to remove all Native American imagery, names and related words with a deadline of June 30, 2022.
In compliance with the new law, the Kiowa Schools are required to make several changes to their official images and terminology, including replacing the school sign that faces Highway 86 in Kiowa.
The current sign uses the symbol of a Native American man and the phrase “Home of the Indians.”
In addition to staying in compliance with the law, Kiowa Schools Superintendent Dr. Silvia McNeely says that the sign is damaged and is in a state of disrepair.
“We have difficulty replacing pieces and parts of the sign that are too high in cost,” said McNeely in an email correspondence from Dec. 17. “Some parts are non-replaceable and/or unadaptable due to current regulations, like the specialty light bulbs that involve specific hardware.”
Leaders of the Kiowa Schools are currently raising money to fully replace the sign through a GoFundMe campaign, ultimately resolving the ongoing repair issue and to comply with the Colorado state law. The new sign will be a fully digital messaging center with the ability to provide more information to parents and to the community.
“We were able to raise around $20,000 from Phillips 66 and other donors to help fund a new sign. Those donations are earmarked for the replacement of this sign,” said Dr. McNeely. “We are needing approximately $10,000 more to fully fund the replacement of this sign.”
In addition to replacing the imagery and wordage on the sign, the Kiowa Schools are also required to replace their mascot. The Indian mascot will need to change by the June 2022 deadline or the Kiowa Schools will incur a $25,000 monthly fine. During the Dec. 17 correspondence with Dr. McNeely, no decision has been made regarding the new mascot.
“I feel strongly about preserving this community’s traditions, culture, and history. I wish to take it slow in deciding what mascot can symbolize Kiowa traditions and culture,” said Dr. McNeely, “With that being said, I believe the community needs more time to discuss and decide what is best.”
The school motto, however, will stay intact.
“I spoke to our school attorney, and he informed me that our Motto (TRIBE: Truth, Respect, Individuality, Bravery, Excellence ) is permissible because there are and were tribes around the world, outside Native American like the 12 Tribes of Israel, the Maasai Tribe in Tanzania, the Huli of Papua New Guinea, etc.,” commented Dr. McNeely. “We will cosmetically cover up images and the word `Indian’ until we decide what mascot better expresses the Traditions and Culture of this community.”
On Jan. 10, Dr. McNeely and the Kiowa School Board plan to begin a thorough discussion regarding how to proceed with the transition.
To donate to the Kiowa Schools new sign fundraiser, visit gofundme.com/f/help-replace-kiowa-schools-sign.