Intertribal society protesting Indians as mascots

By GABRIEL MORLEY / The Daily News / June 2, 1999

BOGALUSA - A local group of American Indians is taking a stand against Indian-related mascots.

According to Keith "Redbull" Pounds, secretary of Medicine Wheel Intertribal Society and an activist against the use of racial mascots, the group has filed a 44-page formal complaint with the Louisiana Department of Education regarding the use of racially motivated Indian mascots in public school sports teams.

In its complaint, Medicine Wheel alleges, "The use of often grotesque caricatures used as mascots are seen as dehumanizing and degrading, because they freeze Indian people in the past and ignore the views of contemporary American Indians Most often, many of the schools that use these mascots have no other images to identify with in speaking of American Indians, and therefore marginalize and separate Indian people into a group to be used as sports teams icons " The intertribal society, which is comprised of different tribes of Indians, also alleges Indian children who must attend schools with the American Indian mascots are often compared to the stoic, fierce and savage depictions of Indians; Medicine Wheel even goes so far as to conclude the comparison is a link to the high drop-out rate of Indian children.

" Indian children are often embarrassed by these mascots and refuse to acknowledge, or identify with their Indian heritage, and often hide that heritage from their peers " This attitude is detrimental to the future leaders of the Indian nation, according to Medicine Wheel, and is also partially responsible for the fact that many of the native languages of Indian people have been lost "Being educators, we must all desire to teach our children respect for all people," Pounds said.

"We have initiated that by eliminating such caricatures as the Frito Banditos and Black Sambo restaurants of the past The same respect must be given the indigenous of this land " Pounds said arguments that schools intend to honor Indians by using caricatures, is not accurate.

In fact, he said Medicine Wheel feels most Indians are not honored by the caricatures and want to see them eliminated "Many of us feel the racism expressed by use of these mascots is not intentional; therefore, the need to 'educate the educators' is of extreme importance," Pounds said.

Medicine Wheel has sent copies of its formal complaint to 66 schools within the state that use such mascots, including Northeast Louisiana University, and is waiting for a response from the schools or Department of Education