Dakota Middle School to change mascot due to new state laws

Rochester middle school to change mascot

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(ABC 6 News) – Last week, RPS sent a letter to parents informing them Dakota Middle School would have to change their mascot.

The bison mascot references the Dakota tribe, but a new law passed during the 2023 legislative session bans the use of Indigenous American mascots at public schools.

During Feb. 20’s school board meeting, RPS took steps to move forward in the school’s search for a new mascot.

During the 2023 legislative session, the Minnesota Department of Education had 24 statutes passed for American Indian Education.

One of those was prohibiting American Indian mascots. The state defines mascot as inhuman, animal or object that represents the school.

“With Dakota being bison which is an animal but it’s also important to the culture of the indigenous people of this land,” RPS executive director of equity and engagement Will Ruffin II said.

When choosing the bison, school officials worked with the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee (AIPAC) and RPS’ American Indian Education Department. Something they felt checked all the boxes.

After the new law was passed, Dakota Middle applied for an exemption, but was denied by native tribes in the state’s prerequisite of the new law.

“It’s about doing the right thing and doing the right thing for the right reasons, so if there was even one tribe which there were that denied the exception, then we need to honor their request and we need to change the mascot,” Ruffin II said.

While the bison may be out, RPS’ American Indian Education Department is working with the Tribal Nations Education Committee on another mascot.

“Our second choice last year, if you remember was, the stars to see if that’s ok, so once I get a response from them we will move forward in finding an artist,” coordinator of the American Indian Education Amelia Cordell said.

The plan is to have the new mascot and design selected by the next schoolyear. If their proposal is denied, RPS’ American Indian Education Department will take it back to AIPAC and Indigenous families to brainstorm any new ideas.