American Indian Sports Team Mascots main index

Educators Resources

Many more resolutions and educational materials available here. 

School Board Blues - A DVD docu-memoir

Michigan State Board of Education resolution 

Wisconsin Indian Education Association (WIEA)
*Common Themes and questions about the use of "Indian Mascots
*Additional Resources from the Midwest Treaty Network

"Indians" and Animals: A Comparative Essay
David P. Rider, Ph.D.

Resolution of the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission 

New Hampshire State Board of Education Resolution endorsing the elimination of the use of Indian sports team mascots

 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board resolution against discriminatory logos, names, mascots and nicknames

Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs Mascot Resolution

Assessing Racial Sensitivites by Dolph L. Hatfield, M.D.

Resolution by the Peoria Tribe of Indians calling for retirement of "Chief Illiniwek"

Southern Poverty Law Center letter to trustees of the University of Illinois urging retirement of Illiniwek (No longer available at the SPLC website.  See January 2004 article on the Center's support)

Legal reviews bibliography on 
trademark and copyright issues 
relating to "Indian" sports team tokens  

Let's teach respect, not racism - Ethnic mascots demean American Indians
Jeff J. Corntassel, Ph.D

"Symbolic Racism: Chief Wahoo and the Cleveland Indians"
James V. Fenelon

Illiniwek stance of the Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas

NAACP Mascot Resolution

Society of Indian Psychologists
Draft mascot letter
and APA article 

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Resolutions by the
* Anthropology and
* History departments
* College of Medicine
* Center for African Studies  

*
Senate Committee on Equal Opportunity

More Resources Including:

*"I" is not for Indian

* State of Minnesota Department of Public Instruction Resolution

* Stances of the United Methodist Church Towards Native Peoples
MORE!

 

Countering the Assault of Indian Mascots in School

By Dr. Cornel Pewewardy

With another school year upon classroom teachers comes the reality and challenge of educating a multicultural society. Teaching multiculturally requires examining sensitive issues and topics. It requires looking at historical and contemporary events from a multicultural perspective. Multicultural teaching encourages students to investigate institutional racism, classism, and sexism and how societal institutions have served different populations in discriminatory ways. Educators can help students examine their own biases and stereotypes related to different cultural groups. Teachers have a professional responsibility to eliminate racism in all aspects of school life. Accordingly, teachers should not ignore multicultural issues in school. Instead, they should become one of those teachable moments in which issues are confronted and discussed. Accurate information can begin to displace the myths that many hold about others.

The purpose of this paper is to examine one of the most obvious forms of racism in schools—the usage of Indian mascots in school-related activities and events. Moreover, this paper discusses who created stereotypical Indian mascots, how our society reinforces and accepts those stereotypes, how negative stereotypes have affected the relationship between Native Americans and the rest of society, and finally provides solutions how we can eliminate these mascots from schools. My intent in writing this paper is not to demean the educator but, rather, to provide a rationale and approaches by which ethnocentrism such as elitism, sexism, and racism, can be effectively eradicated in schools. Therefore, I would like to apologize in advance to anyone who may take offense at anything that might be said in this article. We must understand, however, that any discussion of power and words that hurt may offend someone.

To use the word countering, which is to meet attacks or arguments with defensive or retaliatory steps, to describe certain aspects of our society is a strong indictment of the social fabric of this country. There are many teachers in this country that are serious players when it comes to countering racism, thereby protecting the mental health of our children. On the other hand, there are still many more teachers who are passive or unaware of the issues of racism in schools today. This passive group of teachers can also include parents, educators, and liberals who deny being racists, but through their silence allow institutional racism to continue.

Many schools around the country exhibit Indian mascots and logos, using nicknames and do the "tomahawk chop" in sport stadiums with inauthentic representations of Native American cultures. Many school officials claim they are honoring Native Americans and insist that their school’s sponsored activities are not offensive. I would argue otherwise, and contend that these racist activities are a form of cultural violence. There is nothing in Native American cultures that consciously aspires to be a mascot, logo, or nickname for athletic teams. Teachers should research the matter and discover that Native Americans would never have associated the sacred practices of becoming a warrior with the hoopla of a high school pep rally, half-time entertainment, or being a sidekick to cheerleaders. Ironically, making fun of Indians in American sports culture has become as "American as apple pie and baseball."

The portrayal of Indian mascots in sports takes many forms. Some teams use generic Indian names, such as Indians, Braves, or Chiefs, while others adopt specific tribal names like Seminoles, Comanches, or Apaches. Indian mascots exhibit either idealized or comical facial features and "native" dress, ranging from body-length feathered (usually turkey) headdresses to more subtle fake buckskin attire or skimpy loincloths. Some teams and supporters display counterfeit Indian paraphernalia, including foam tomahawks, feathers, face paints, and symbolic drums and pipes. They also use mock-Indian behaviors, such as the tomahawk chop, dances, chants, drum beating, war-whooping, and symbolic scalping.

Of course, teachers are all too familiar with the current legal and educational battles toward eliminating Indian mascots, logos, nicknames, and the "tomahawk chop" from school-related events. These negative images, symbols, and behaviors play a crucial role in distorting and warping Native American children's’ cultural perceptions of themselves as well as non-Indian children's’ attitudes toward Native Americans. Most of these proverbial stereotypes are manufactured racist images that prevent millions of students from understanding the past and current authentic human experience of Native Americans.

Continue with Countering the Assault of Indian Mascots in School

 

Other items available by  Dr. Pewewardy include:

 Why Educators Can't Ignore Indian Mascots  

"The Deculturalization of Indigenous Mascots in U.S. Sports Culture" from The Educational Forum, Summer - 1999

 

American Indian Imagery and the Miseducation of America

By Ellen J. Staurowsky, Ed.D.

During the summer of 1998, the New York State Department of Education initiated an inquiry into the use of Native American mascots by schools for the purpose of determining if the practice is offensive and should be stopped. The study undertaken at the direction of the State Education Commissioner Richard Mills was in response to an appeal filed by Robert Eurich, a taxpayer from Orange County (NY). In 1996, Eurich sought to have the ‘Red Raiders’ mascot eliminated from Port Jervis High School because he alleged it violated his civil rights and those of students attending the school (Associated Press, 1998a; Russin, 1998a).*** Although Commissioner Mills dismissed Eurich’s appeal, he did recognize the "... seriousness of the issue the petitioner raises and that other districts statewide engage in similar practices" (Associated Press, 1998a, p. 1A).

The New York State Department of Education is one among many policy making bodies to address the appropriateness of the use of American Indian mascots, symbols, and iconography in school settings. During the past three years, the issue has manifest itself from border to border and coast to coast in numerous discussions, debates, and disputes (Willman, 1999; "Hearing held...," 1998). Saliently, the issue has even attracted the attention of the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ). The February 1999 investigation by the USDOJ at Erwin High School in North Carolina marks the first occasion when Native American images have been examined by a federal agency for the purpose of determining if the symbols contribute to a racially hostile learning environment (Pressley, 1999).

These incidents reveal the complicated dynamics that are invoked and/or provoked when educators and communities attempt to discuss this issue. Schools throughout the state of Minnesota and institutions such as Cornell, Marquette, Miami University of Ohio, St. John’s, Stanford, and Syracuse (Lapchick, 1996; Staurowsky, 1996), have found reasons to stop the practice of using American Indian imagery for sport teams. However, the potential for discussions on this issue to become volatile is evident as well.

Indicative of the palpable sense of the need for reinforcement when it comes to handling this issue, Superintendent Church of the Afton (NY) School District said she would welcome a directive from the state as a means of avoiding contentiousness at the local level. Church’s prediction that constituencies may register a range of reactions to the prospect of eliminating American Indian mascots can be gauged from the immediacy of response generated when the proposed New York State Department of Education study was made known to the public. The mere announcement of such a study evoked definitive positions by educational decision makers before the investigation ever got under way. Several athletic directors from Section IV in central New York, where 13 school districts are known as Indians, Chiefs, Senecas, Blackhawks, and Warriors, were quick to note that their school names were a "source of pride" and "a reflection of our area" (Russin, 1998a, p. 1A). About the study, one local sportswriter in Ithaca, NY, recognized two years ago as one of the most "Enlightened Cities" in the United States, editorialized:

I guess if I lived on a reservation and a high school was nicknamed the ‘Iroquois Pale Faces’ I would be offended.... But that’s not the perspective I’m working from. Nope, this is the all common-sense channel....There is absolutely nothing wrong with Indian-related names (Russin, 1998b, p. 1A).

For the remainder of this I article will focus on the cultural fallout confronted when addressing the issue of American Indian imagery as it has become infused into and perpetuated by school districts and communities. The complex racialized fabric of attitudes and beliefs fostered in adults and children through the reliance on American Indian mascots as the centerpiece of school, community, and team identities will be unraveled. The end result will be the identification of critical areas of inquiry that educators should address with themselves, their students, their families, and their communities about the continued use of these symbols.  

Continue with American Indian Imagery and the Miseducation of American

Also see Dr. Staurowsky's "An Act of Honor or Exploitation?: The Cleveland Indians’ Use of the Louis Francis Sockalexis Story" published in Sociology of Sport Journal, 1998

*** Webmaster's note-The plaintiff in this appeal did not contend that his rights or those of students attending the school were violated but that the practices themselves were inherently discriminatory and propagated ethnic stereotypes.

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