SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House failed to pass a resolution that would have encouraged schools to retire Native American mascots.
Several conservative lawmakers spoke against the resolution, with one questioning whether legislators were being overly sensitive and if animal mascots would next be considered too controversial, The Salt Lake Tribune reports.
The measure was defeated mostly along party lines, with only a few Republicans voting in favor. The nonbinding resolution would not have forced schools to retire their mascots.
“I’m not trying to directly compare the two,” Republican House Majority Leader Francis Gibson said of the resolution. “But will we have PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] arguing against that as well?”
Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Weight, the resolution’s sponsor, said the measure was about having “more conscientiousness of our Native American neighbors.”
The resolution was intended to start conversations about the hurtful use of Indigenous imagery, Weight said.
Weight, a former teacher, previously said using Native American mascots makes characters of living people, leaving many offended. Humans should not be compared to animals or treated as mascots, she argued.
Weight began drafting the resolution while her alma mater in northern Utah, Bountiful High School, reexamined its mascot, “The Braves.”
The Bountiful student body has for decades worn red face paint and feathers to school events. Football games have included students doing a “tomahawk chop” and calling the entrance of other teams, “The Trail of Tears,” a reference to the forced relocation of thousands of Native Americans in the 1800s that resulted in at least 3,000 deaths.
After receiving a petition from some alumni and Native American groups, Bountiful stopped using the mascot name and is seeking another.