indian territory flag

A flag emblazoned with "Indian territory" and a Native American man flies outside of the Montrose High School gymnasium on June 15, 2021. 

Uniforms. Murals. Gym weights.

These are a few of the many items emblazoned with the Montrose Indians logo that will need to be redone by the start of June 2022.

Governor Jared Polis signed SB 21-116 into law last week, which bans Colorado public schools from having Native American mascots. If schools do not comply with the new law, they will face a $25,000 monthly fine.

The new law affects two local schools: the Montrose High School Indians and the Centennial Middle School Braves.

Matt Jenkins, a spokesman for the Montrose County School District, sketched out the prospective timeline of the process to choose a new mascot, but Jenkins emphasized that the final deadline of June 1, 2022 is the only part of the timeline that is known for sure.

Jenkins said the process to begin the mascot change will start in late July when the school principals are back in the office. They will first take inventory and assess what exactly needs to be changed.

Within a few weeks after the school year begins on Aug. 19, Jenkins hopes that the district will establish an official estimate and financial plan.

MCSD Superintendent Carrie Stephenson estimated at the last school board meeting that the switch will cost approximately $500,000 to $750,000. Jenkins later clarified that the preliminary figure includes both Centennial and Montrose High. The district can apply for a state-funded grant program to cover the costs of switching the mascot.

Denver South High School independently moved to change their mascot from the “Rebels,” a reference to the Confederacy. The switch to the “Ravens” cost the school nearly $350,000.

The process to solicit community input and suggestions for a new mascot is tentatively slated to begin starting in the winter. Jenkins explained that “this is not a predetermined process,” but is excited to see the community’s creative ideas.

“We’ve got really creative students, staff, parents and community members. That creativity is going to come into this process and we’ll invest that new school mascot with pride,” Jenkins said.

As soon as the new mascot is determined, Jenkins hoped that the process of revamping the facilities would start by January or February of next year, despite the “tight timeline” to strategize logistics.

Despite some pushback from community members about the mascot change, Jenkins said that the district will move forward in accordance with the law.

“It’s human nature: change bristles us a little bit. And when something has been a certain way for a long time, it can be difficult for some folks to do things differently — and that’s totally understandable,” Jenkins said. “But regardless of any negative reaction to this, the law is the law. It would not be a good use of the taxpayers’ money to be spending $25,000 a month to keep a Native American mascot.”

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

Anna Lynn Winfrey is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.

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