House Bill Proposal Could Change School Use of Native American Imagery

A proposed Illinois house bill would prohibit schools from using Native American imagery without permission. (photo credit / WVTV)

SPRINGFIELD – A house bill was introduced to the Illinois General Assembly on Monday that would affect schools using Native American imagery.

House Bill 4783 was introduced by Illinois State Representative Maurice West from the 67th district in Rockford.

The bill proposes that “an association that has, as one of its purposes, promoting, sponsoring, regulating, or in any manner providing for interscholastic athletics or any form of athletic competition among schools and students…shall prohibit a member school from using a Native American logo or mascot or any other Native American imagery…”

“I am not requesting that school get rid of their Native American imagery,” said Representative West. “I am requiring that, if you want to keep Chief Waubonsie, then you have to develop a partnership with the Potawatomi tribe in the area and get their written consent to keep your mascot.  On top of that, you have to educate your students about Native American culture through school-wide programming (twice per year) and a course of study.”

“Our Native American community has been underserved, underrepresented, and under appreciated.  As a black man, I know how that feels.  Thus, I stand up for them.  I urge everyone to not look at this in the lens of inconvenience – but within the lens of courtesy and respect.”

Schools would be allowed to use Native American imagery based on certain conditions or requirements.

One of the murals in Waubonsie Valley. (photo credit / WVTV)
  1. The school has received express written consent of the Native American tribe, which must be renewed every five years.
  2. The school must conduct a school-wide program on Native American Culture at least twice per year.
  3. The school offers a course of study outlining Native American contributions to society
  4. The school must file an annual report with the State Board of Education detailing the academic programs it is providing on Native American culture

The bill also proposes penalties for schools that do not comply, including ineligibility to participate in any playoffs. The bill would have to pass both the Illinois House and Senate, then be approved by the governor, in order to be enacted.

Some Illinois high schools have gone through the process of either changing their school mascot names or considering a change. In 1992, Naperville Central changed its mascot from “Redskins” to “Redhawks.” Recently, Rockford Hononegah High School in Rockton, Illinois, has had debate and discussion about removing its Native American mascot. Other schools also still maintain a Native American as its mascot, such as Minooka, Lemont and Lane Tech.

Other than Waubonsie Valley, there are some schools that still use the Warrior as its mascot, including Westinghouse and Maine West.