Kiowa High School sign depicts native imagery.

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

By Chancy J. Gatlin-Anderson, Special to Colorado Community Media

The Kiowa School District in Elbert County won its year-long battle to keep its Indians mascot on May 19, when the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs voted to allow the district to keep the Indians name and imagery. 

Among dozens of schools placed on a list last year for being out of compliance with a general ban on Native American mascots, the Kiowa School District is the only one that has succeeded in keeping its original mascot.

The Kiowa School District had gone through multiple procedures to meet the standards outlined in Colorado Senate Bill 116, the 2021 law generally banning Native American mascots. The school district reached a formal memorandum of understanding in March with the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, which approved the mascot, and implemented Native American history courses both for elementary students and as a graduation requirement in high school. 

The vote on the Kiowa Schools request was held at the May 19 meeting of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, where Colorado Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera and CCIA commissioners voted in favor of Kiowa’s request to keep its Indians mascot and be removed from the list of non-compliant schools

All voted to approve Kiowa’s request except Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman Manuel Heart, who abstained.