North Dakota non-profit sues Colorado for American Indian nickname ban

Native American Guardian's Association

DENVER, Colo. (KVRR) – A Devils Lake, N.D. based organization that advocates for increased education about Native Americans is suing Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and five other officials for banning the use of American Indian Mascots.

The 36-page lawsuit was filed in federal court in Colorado by the Native American Guardian’s Association.

The complaint says that while the organization opposes the use of American Indian mascots, culturally appropriate Native American names and logos can serve to help “neutralize offensive and stereotypical Native American caricatures and teach the general public about American Indian history.

“Imagine a state law that barred schools from using the name or image of an African-American individual on its logos or letterhead,” the complaint says.

“That would be the end of school names honoring Martin Luther King Jr., President Barack Obama, or Justices Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas.  Or imagine a law banning school names and letterhead honoring Latin Americans like Cesar Chavez or Justice Sonya Sotomayor.”

The lawsuit also argues that the law discriminates against Native Americans on the basis of race, color, and national origin.

“For instance, Colorado public schools could use the name “Fighting Irish” or “Boston Celtics,” or the name “Vikings” with a medieval Scandinavian warship logo, but may not generally use Native American iconography, or the use of the name “Fighting Sioux” or “Indian,” with a culturally appropriate Native American logo, iconography or imagery.”

The lawsuit is asking a judge to declare the law unconstitutional, $1.00 for damages, plus attorney fees.

The organization filed the lawsuit Nov. 2 on behalf of five Colorado residents, including two unnamed minors.

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