RENO, Nev. (KOLO) – Most of the time, we see a beautiful landscape, we don’t initially consider its name. Or we may watch a great high school team and don’t notice the mascot.

But when it comes to names or representations of Native Americans and their application to such teams or geographical identifiers, words matter.

“They reinforce negative stereotypes of our indigenous people,” Laurie Thom from the Yerington Paiute Nation told a legislative committee. “From adults spitting on young native athlete or seeing entire gyms full of non-natives doing the tomahawk chop. But still yelling at us for the dirty Indians to go home to the Res,” she said

“I was a native student athlete and I had to compartmentalize and separate from the jeering about my culture,” testified Marla McDaze William representing the Reno Sparks Indian Colony. Those were just two of approximately one dozen voices in favor a Assembly Bill 88.

Nevada’s Assembly Committee on Education looked at the bill this afternoon at a scheduled meeting in Carson City. The bill, if passed, would require school boards around the state to get rid of offensive depictions of Native Americans

For example, if the disparaging images appear as mascots or part of a school song they need to be removed. If a school wants to keep the image and name, it must get permission from the tribe for which it is based.

Under the bill offensive geographical names would also be scrutinized by a state board consisting of historic, park, university, tribal councils and federal agencies. If a change is needed a recommendation would be delivered to the federal government to rename the area.

“We can confront our history, and we can preserve our history and we can make history,” said Assemblyman Howard Watts, sponsor of Assembly Bill 88

No one testified against AB 88 during public comment today. The Assembly Committee on Education took no action on AB 88 during its scheduled Tuesday meeting.

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