ROCHESTER - A middle school here must drop its bison mascot, due to a state law banning public schools from using nicknames, logos or mascots that are tied to Native Americans.

Dakota Middle School, which opened in 2022, chose the bison as its mascot that year after consulting with a Native American advisory group within the Rochester Public Schools and a Native artist. When the Legislature enacted the ban last year, Rochester school officials sought an exemption from one of Minnesota's 11 federally recognized tribes and the Tribal Nations Education Committee.

But none of the tribes granted that appeal, school officials told parents in an email Tuesday.

Though it may be disappointing to change the mascot, the district's "desire is to continue to honor the sacred land and traditions of the Dakota people and all indigenous people," Dakota Middle School Principal Levi Lundak wrote in the email. "We look forward to doing so with our new mascot."

Lundak added that the school will work with the advisory committee and another Native artist to create a new mascot by the next school year.

District officials on Wednesday declined to comment on the issue. A spokesperson said the Rochester school board will discuss the mascot change at a meeting next week.

About a dozen districts across Minnesota face similar mascot issues, from the Pipestone Arrows to the Warroad Warriors. Minnesota's ban on Native American mascots came about as the nation reckons with stereotypes depicting Native Americans in a negative light.

Schools and districts can file for an exemption like Rochester school officials did, but all 11 tribes and the national tribal nations committee must unanimously agree to it.

Residents had mixed reactions over the issue on social media. Some said they understood why the middle school had to change its mascot, while others decried the effort as politically motivated.

Several parents picking up students at the school Wednesday said they either didn't know about the mascot change or supported having Native Americans choose how their culture is portrayed.

"It's important to respect their culture," said Randi Hall while picking up her eighth-grade child.