Up to 12 Connecticut towns could lose some slots revenue from the state’s two tribal gaming properties. That’s because public schools in these communities continue to use offensive Native American team monikers or mascots.
Under recently approved legislation, at issue is “any name, symbol, or image that depicts, refers to, or is associated with a … Native American tribe or a Native American individual custom or tradition, as a mascot, nickname, logo, or team name.”
The provision is found in SB 1202, which implements the state budget. As of Thursday, it was approved by the legislature, but still required the signature of Gov. Ned Lamont (D) to be implemented.
Under the bill, towns can request permission from tribes to retain the mascot or names. Or they would need to change mascots to continue receiving the money. The money is distributed from the Mashantucket Pequot/Mohegan Fund.
State Sen. Cathy Osten, (D-Sprague), who is co-chair of the influential Appropriations Committee, wrote the provision in the legislation. Her district includes the Mashantucket Pequot’s Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan’s Mohegan Sun.
Supporters say the legislation aims to counteract disrespectful or offensive stereotypes and practices.
It is necessary as a result of years of trying to resolve these issues without movement,” Osten explained to Casino.org. Local schools repeatedly were told the use of the objectionable names is hurtful to tribal members.
In a statement released this week, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation (MPTN) said it opposes the use of Native American-related nicknames, mascots, and imagery unless a school has gotten permission.
That consent can come from a tribe whose name is being used. Or if the use is a more generic Native American reference, the school or team needs the written consent of a tribe located in the same region, or which has a connection to the school or team.
The statement adds that both Mashantucket Pequot and Eastern Pequot tribal nations “strongly object” to the use of “redface or any songs, chants, costumes, body gestures [such as] ‘tomahawk chop’ or any other actions intended to imitate Native Americans or Native American cultures.”
The bill comes after the Killingly, Conn. school board narrowly reinstated “Redmen” as the mascot for the local high school. Recently, Killingly got $94,184 for the current fiscal year from the tribal fund.
In total, the tribal fund gave $103 million in grants over the last two years, according to the New York Post.
Several state Republican leaders complained they were surprised by the portion of the bill which could lead to towns losing tribal funding.
Elsewhere, the NFL’s Washington Redskins pro football team and the American League’s Cleveland Indians pro baseball team are dropping names found offensive by Native Americans. Some other pro teams will not drop their mascots or names linked to Native Americans.