By Joel Hillan
STRASBURG, Colo. (CBS4)– Strasburg High School calls themselves the “Home of the Indians.” The Native American mascot has served them well through the years, but more recently, it’s been at the center of a nationwide controversy.
Instead of scraping the mascot altogether, the students at the school decided to reach out to the Northern Arapaho Tribe. Working with the tribe, they made subtle changes not only to the mascot, but to the culture of the school as well.
Junior Mati Douglas loves being a Strasburg Indian and the culture it represents.
“I love their sense of community and the fact that the kids in the tribe they respect their elders so much,” she said.
She has taken the reins of a project started three years ago to reach out to the tribes represented by their mascot.
Strasburg High School Principal Jeff Rasp says the tribe gave their blessing to what Strasburg was doing and one of the tribe members even drew the new logo for the school.
“So in that process, they came to the school, they visited; we kept in correspondence with them.”
The tribe is grateful for the ability to be able to share their story and reality of the people represented by the mascot.
“You know it’s always good when we can sit down and talk and recognize the importance of our culture,” said Anthony Addison Senior, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
This was the third powwow for the school and tribe since the collaboration began, with many more expected in the future.
“Our young kids have lots to share with the kids of Strasburg,” said Gail Ridgely, a member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe.
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Ridgely was a teacher for many years on their reservation in Wind River, Wyoming. He loves the idea of students from different cultures teaching and learning from each other.
“I’m honored to be here today, because this was one of my goals when I was in the classroom that something, somehow could happen down the road like this,” he said.
The hope is that respectful collaborations like this in Strasburg and at Arapaho High School as well can serve as a model nationwide for all organizations that carry a Native American Mascot.
Joel Hillan anchors CBS4 This Morning on weekends as well as reports stories for CBS4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. Follow Joel on Twitter @joelhillan.