Nevada bans ‘racially discriminatory mascots’ and ‘sundown sirens’ that were once used to tell Native Americans to leave town

Steve Sisolak
FILE: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks during a news conference in March 2020.

  • Nevada on Friday banned schools from using “racially discriminatory mascots.”
  • The new law also bans the use of “sundown sirens,” which were once used to kick non-white people out of town, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
  • Even after “sundown town” laws were repealed, some places continued to play the evening sirens.
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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, signed into law on Friday a bill that bans “racially discriminatory mascots” and “sundown sirens,” which were once blasted nightly to tell non-white residents to leave town.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 88, prohibits schools and universities from using “any name, logo, mascot, song, or other identifier that is racially discriminatory or contains racially discriminatory language or imagery,” according to the bill.

Schools will only be permitted to use “an identifier associated with a federally recognized Indian tribe” if they first obtain permission from the tribe, according to AB88.

The same bill also prohibits the use of “sundown sirens.” These sirens were once popular in so-called “sundown towns” in the South and Midwest where non-white residents were ordered to leave town in the evening. These laws often targeted Black residents, though in some places were meant to exclude a town’s Native American population, according to a May report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Douglas County in Nevada, for example, remained a “sundown town” until 1974 when the law prohibiting Native American people after 6:30 p.m. was repealed. But the siren that alerted residents of law has remained in effect, sounding at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. every day in the town of Minden, according to the Review-Journal.

The siren was briefly turned off in 2006 by the then-county manager who said he aimed to improve the relationship between Douglas County and the local Washoe Tribe, but the county voted to turn the siren on again two months later to honor emergency personnel, the Courier-Journal reported at the time.

Assemblyman Howard Watts, a Democrat representing Las Vegas in the Nevada Assembly, added the “sundown siren” provision to AB88, according to the Review-Journal.

The bill signed Friday prohibits counties, cities, and towns from “sounding a siren, bell, or alarm at a time during which the siren, bell or alarm was previously sounded on specific days or times in association with an ordinance enacted by the county which required persons of a particular race, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin or color to leave the county or a city, town or township within the county by a certain time.”

“It is similar in some ways to people who display the Confederate flag and claim that they do it for a reason that is not racially discriminatory,” Watts told the Review-Journal. “We just have to recognize that for many people in this country – and speaking as somebody who’s descended from enslaved people in this country – that is hurtful to see.”

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