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Is a law needed to prohibit Indiana city name changes?

Some at the Statehouse say yes
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Posted at 1:04 AM, Feb 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-09 09:48:06-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite there being no efforts to change names of cities in Indiana, a bill that would make that process harder is making its way through the Statehouse.

This bill came about out of fear that the movement to stop sports team from using Native Americans as mascots would somehow end up with a push to change the name of Indianapolis, which is derived from the word Indian.

"Honestly, it sounds like some kind of weird reply from your local news section came to life," Carolina Castoreno-Santana, The America Indian Center of Indiana's Executive Director, said. "As someone who's on the front lines, working with the Native community here in Indiana, this has not been brought up by anyone that these names need to change."

Castoreno-Santana says she wishes state legislators would focus on things that matter like ensuring the vaccine gets to Native Americans and other minority communities, economic relief for those suffering because of the pandemic, along with criminal justice reform.

Senator Jack Sandlin, the author of Senate Bill 130, tells WRTV, he looked into this matter because his constituents were asking him about it. "I was contacted over the summer with some questions from people that asked me because there's a lot of discussion about renaming things such as cities." He says the bill would protect many people and businesses that would be impacted if a name change was to ever happen.

"The investments the city has made to attract conventions and businesses and even within the state, Indianapolis is a destination for a lot of other communities in Indiana," Sandlin said. "I think this provides what I think is good protection to preserve the name of Indianapolis."

Castoreno-Santana, however, doesn't buy that explanation. She says legislation like this is meant to stir emotions and believe it's a racist dog whistle.

"It's often hard for a lot of people to comprehend racism that is more casual, racism that has a politer face than putting on hoods or burning crosses. This is just emblematic of the systemic racism that exists, this is trying to stick it to us and no one is even asking for this, to change any city names," Castoreno-Santana said.

Sen. Sandlin denies racism played any role in this bill. "I'm not a racist. I don't think I've had anybody call me a racist and quite frankly, it's a little bit offensive."

You can read Senate Bill 130 here. It passed in the Senate 36-11. The House now has to take action on it.