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A committee of the Minnesota Board of Education voted 5 to 3 last week to reject a proposed September 1993 deadline for a mandatory ban on all Native American mascots, logos, and nicknames in the state's public schools.

The committee also asked for an opinion from the Minnesota attorney general on whether the board has statutory authority to order an end to the Indian-related names.

The vote was the latest move in a debate that first gained attention in the state three years ago, when a group of Native Americans asked the board to remove what they described as racist symbols from public schools. Since then, the board has raised the issue with all 50 districts in which the mascots were found, almost half of which have relinquished the contested nicknames.

The board's current policy supports self-determination in the matter, but urges districts to consider the potential damage of the imagery.

Al Zdon, the board committee's chairman, said that Native Americans in the state do not have a uniform reaction to the issue. His committee had responded to initial complaints by interviewing various groups of Native Americans, including tribal councils on reservations and representatives of urban populations. Urban Indians tend to object to the mascots, he said, while rural populations seem to find them either a source of pride or an insignificant issue.

Mr. Zdon, who voted to abolish the symbols, sees a trend toward prohibition of Indian nicknames in school athletics.

"It is a real tough issue within the Indian community. At what point do you stop doing it voluntarily and see the damage being done to children?'' Mr. Zdon said.

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