Connecticut schools that insist on using Native American nicknames and mascots without written consent from tribal leaders could see their budgets on the chopping block.
State senators passed a budget bill Tuesday containing a provision that cut districts off from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund, which generates education revenue at the state’s Indian-run casinos.
Money would be withheld to schools that don’t have permission to use “any name, symbol or image that depicts, refers to or is associated with a state or federally recognized Native American tribe or a Native American individual, custom or tradition, as a mascot, nickname, logo or team team.”
“Towns around this state have been told year after year by Connecticut’s Native American tribes that their nicknames and mascots are horribly offensive,” state Sen. Cathy Osten, the bill’s sponsor, said.
“If certain cities and towns won’t listen to their fellow citizens, then they can certainly do without the tribal money that they are showing such disrespect toward,” the Democrat added.
The bill still needs to be passed by Hartford’s House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats.
A leading Republican senator who represents the Regional School District #6 Warriors said he was taken by surprise about the earmark, which was not revealed until Tuesday.
“Just because you’re in the majority doesn’t mean you should act this way,” Sen. Craig Miner said.
In a joint statement Tuesday, the Mashantucket Pequots and the state-recognized Eastern Pequot Tribal Nation said “wide-ranging appropriation of Native-American-related imagery, culture and names” creates “lasting harm for tribal nations and their citizens.”
About a dozen schools in Connecticut still use names or mascots that some contend is offensive to American Indians, as others opt for more neutral imagery.
The Manchester Indians voted to change its name to the Red Hawks after a student campaign in 2019.
Killingly also voted that year to adopt the same mascot after its moniker, Redmen, was condemned by tribe officials. However the controversial mascot was restored after local Republicans who ran on reversing the decision won a legislative majority.
Killingly’s $94,000 share of the casino education fund would be in jeopardy under the new proposal.
“This is the first I’m hearing about this,” said Killingly Town Council Chairman Jason Anderson, a Republican.
Under the measure, schools would have three years to switch their mascots.
The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casinos fund generated $103 million in grants over the last two years.
The proposal comes a year after professional ball clubs in Washington and Cleveland moved to retire their Native-themed names.
Other teams like the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks said they will not change their mascots.
With AP wires