LOVELAND (AP) – Loveland High School is looking to a Lakota Sioux tribe for help creating a new mascot and a hands-on lesson in history and culture for the school.
“The goal is to make sure that we are honoring with our Indian logo,” said Principal Todd Ball.
Science teacher Denny Heyrman is arranging for Sioux college students to submit potential Native American logo designs and then, later this year, to visit the school with tribal elders to teach and interact with local students.
The Native Americans will bring their music, dances and traditions to Loveland High School.
“It creates a whole different understanding of culture, and it shows a tremendous respect for the history of the Native American culture,” said Superintendent Stan Scheer, who went through a similar process at Arapahoe High School in Centennial and is excited for the possibilities in Loveland.
“It is a tremendous learning opportunity for our students,” Scheer said.
Loveland High School first opened 120 years ago but does not appear to have had a logo until 1925. That year, the school launched a contest to create a mascot, and three students submitted the name Indians to symbolize “bravery, loyalty, patriotism and dauntless pride,” according to a past LHS yearbook.
Within the past 20-plus years, many Native American mascots have taken on a different connotation, and arguments have arisen in Loveland and across the country about whether these mascots and nicknames are respectful or an inappropriate stereotype. Some have changed. Some have not.
So far, the Washington Redskins, a National Football League team, have refused to buckle to pressure to change its name and mascot because some see it as offensive.
Twenty years ago, that same argument led Loveland’s Bill Reed Middle School, which is housed in the original Loveland High building, to switch from the Redskins to the Warriors.
During the 1997-98 school year, Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, changed from the Redskins with a Native American logo to the Redhawks with a raptor. And St. John’s University in New York changed from the Redmen to the Red Storm in 1994-95.
In Colorado, a bill was introduced in the state Legislature this year to require schools using Native American nicknames and mascots to have tribal approval or change them.
Loveland High School is ahead of the potential law.
The school started the process last year to work with the South Dakota tribe to make sure the mascot remains in the respectful spirit in which it was chosen.
Now, the Loveland school is asking students from Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota to design some new logos that the Loveland school might adopt.
“It opens the discussion, and it involves input to pick a mascot that isn’t offensive,” said Michelle Salvatore, teacher at the accredited tribal college.
“It’s a cool thing to do, and it gives them a voice, and they’re proactive in their own identity.”
After a similar process, Arapahoe implemented other culturally sensitive changes and forged a lasting partnership with a Wyoming tribe, Scheer said.
The school made sure that any image of a chief was worn over the heart not on the back and ensured that there were no faces of tribesmen on the gym floor. Instead, the floor was adorned with a “W” for Warriors.
Meanwhile, tribe members visited the school many times to share ceremonial dances and their culture, Arapahoe leaders spoke at graduation each year and the chief’s granddaughter even spent her senior year at the Colorado school and graduated with her class.
Like Scheer, Heyrman is excited about the possibilities, the learning and the mutual respect that could grow from this project.
“What we have here is something that makes it appropriate for both sides,” Heyrman said. “They can design a logo for us and have it something that would be special for our Native American friends and special for Loveland High.”