The bill states mascots or symbols that make reference to Native American culture are “racially derogatory or discriminatory,” and argues using them in schools is “antithetical to [schools’] mission of providing an equal education to all.”
“Although the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images may be premised on the promotion of unity or school spirit, their use fails to respect the cultural heritage of Native Americans and promote productive relationships between sovereign governments,” the legislation reads.
The measure passed the state Senate earlier this month by a 40–6 vote and passed the state House with a 90–8 vote. The new law will go into effect at the start of the next school calendar year.
“This will end the disrespectful use of Native American imagery in our public schools,” Inslee said in a statement.
There are only a few exceptions to the ban. It will not apply if a school is located within “Indian country” or to public schools that include tribal reservations within the district.
The legislation also orders the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to create a grant program to ensure that schools have the necessary funding to change their mascots if necessary.
In recent years, several schools, professional sports teams, and companies have changed their names, logos, or imagery associated with Native American culture.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins changed its team name to the Washington Football team, though the team said this name is only temporary.
The NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and the MLB’s Cleveland Indians also said they would consider changing their team names and banned fans from wearing Indian headdresses and face paint in their stadiums.