January 27, 1999
Society of Indian
Psychologists of the Americas
Draft letter in support of
"retiring" all Indian personalities as the official symbols and mascots of
universities, colleges or schools (and athletic teams).
From: "Mary Clearing-Sky" <MARYC@mail.couns.msu.edu>
Organization: MSU Counseling Center
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, BTwoeagles@aol.com
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 11:23:55 -0500
Subject: draft of mascot letter
cornel and bruce:
finally! we sent this off to apa monitor and focus and division 45. feel free to quote the
society of indian psychologists. i must give credit to u-illinois counseling center for
allowing us to use their statement and just change it to fit us. it saved millions of
hours of work!
and cornel, you were going to tell me some list-serves to send it to? and if you wish you
nin migadimin!! (we fight together!)
We the undersigned members of the Society of
Indian Psychologists of the Americas, write this letter in support of "retiring"
all Indian personalities as the official symbols and mascots of universities, colleges or
schools (and athletic teams). We support doing so because of a variety of concerns
related to the ethical practice of psychology. As a professional society of psychologists
we operate under these professional ethical guidelines.
We are concerned that the continued use of Indian symbols and mascots seriously
compromises our ability to engage in ethical professional practice and service to the
campus (delete campus if addressing all mascots) community. We believe that it establishes
an unwelcome academic environment for Indian (students,staff, and faculty) and contributes
to the miseducation of all members of the (campus) community regarding the cultural
practices and traditions of an entire ethnic group. In our view, the use of an
historically and culturally inaccurate, stereotypic image undermines the educational
experience of all members of the (University) community. It seems especially problematic
for those who have had little or no contact with Indian people and their cultures.
Stereotypical and historically inaccurate images of Indians in general interfere with
learning about them by creating, supporting and maintaining oversimplified and inaccurate
views of indigenous peoples and their cultures. When stereotypical representations are
taken as factual information, they contribute to the development of cultural biases and
prejudices, (clearly a contradiction to the educational mission of the University.) In the
same vein, we believe that continuation of the use of Indians as symbols and mascots is
incongruous with the philosophy espoused by many Americans as promoting inclusivity and
We understand that some affiliated with the institutions having a long history of use of
these symbols may have a special attachment to them. We also understand and believe that
this attachment may not have been formed out of maliciousness or negative intentions. To
the extent, however, that tradition and/or economic issues are major obstacles to change,
they should not usurp the principles of a society struggling to put an end to racism. What
once may have been a unifying symbols for the various bodies using these symbols has
become a source of cross-cultural conflict. In light of all of these factors, we strongly
support and encourage the all such entities to develop a new symbol consistent with and
contributing to the positive realization of national principles (our educational mission.)
In support of our concern about the ethically problematic nature of this issue for the
professional practice of psychology, we cite relevant portions of the "Ethical
Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct" (American Psychological Association
[APA, 1992]) and the "Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic,
Linguistic and Culturally Diverse Populations" (APA, 1992).
Principle D (Respect for People's Rights and Dignity) states:
Psychologists accord appropriate respect to the
fundamental rights, dignity, and worth of all people. They respect the rights of
individuals to privacy, confidentiality, self-determination, and autonomy, mindful that
legal and other obligations may lead to inconsistency and conflict with the exercise of
these rights. Psychologists are aware of cultural, individual, and role differences,
including those due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual
orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status. Psychologists try to
eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on those factors, and they do not
knowingly participate in or condone unfair discriminatory practices.
Principle E (Concern for Others' Welfare)
Psychologists seek to contribute to the welfare
of those with whom they interact professionally. In their professional actions,
psychologists weigh the welfare and rights of their patients or clients, students,
supervisees, human research participants, and other affected persons....
When conflicts occur among psychologists'
obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts and to perform their
roles in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. Psychologists are sensitive
to real and ascribed differences in power between themselves and others, and they do not
exploit or mislead other people during or after professional relationships.
Principle F (Social Responsibility) states:
Psychologists are aware of their professional
and scientific responsibilites to the community and the society in which they work and
live. They apply and make public their knowledge of psychology in order to contribute to
human welfare. Psychologists are concerned about and work to mitigate the causes of human
suffering. When undertaking research, they strive to advance human welfare and the science
of psychology. Psychologists try to avoid misuse of their work. Psychologists comply with
the law and encourage the development of law and social policy that serve the interests of
their patients and clients and the public..
In addition, several of the "Guidelines for
Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic and Culturally Diverse
Populations" also address our concerns on this issue.
# 5. Psychologists respect client's religious and/or spritiual beliefs and values,
including attributions and taboos, since they affect world view, psychosocial functioning,
and expressions of distress.
a. Part of working in minority communities is to
become familiar with indigenous beliefs and practices and respect them.
# 7. Psychologists consider the impact of
adverse social, environmental and political factors in assessing problems and designing
b. Psychologists work within the cultural
setting to improve the welfare of all persons concerned, if there is a conflict between
cultural values and human rights.
#8. Psychologists attend to as well as work to
eliminate biases, prejudices, and discriminatory practices.
a. Psychologists acknowledge relevant
discrimnatory practices at the social and community level that may be affecting the
psychological welfare of the population being served."
We applaud the current efforts across the nation
to have this crucial issue raised and addressed in a responsible and productive way. It is
our hope this letter contributes to that effort.