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  • Sick of Indian Mascots

    The sound of tom-toms are played on the big bass drums as the marching band stands at the ready position, their heads going back and forth as if to simulate the tomahawk chop. The pace picks up, the drums played faster and faster, reaching a frenzied crescendo as the band lets out a whoop and assorted yells.
    The whole display is disgusting to me and my eleven-year-old daughter looks confused and lost. We have raised her to know who she is and where she came from. Her culture is an important part of her identity and is something she is very proud of.
    The pseudo-Indian drumming is an affront to everything that she has been taught from the time she was a baby. It is the Hollywood version of who we are as a people. Blood –thirsty savages trying to disrupt the settler’s God-given right of Manifest Destiny. The tom-tom beat is an absolute fabrication, a distortion of reality.
    This is not about political correctness or diversity to me and my family. This is about identity. This is about respect. We have taught the children to be proud of their heritage. We have taught the children to respect other’s cultures, to value our own and other’s differences. We do not pretend to be something that we are not. We do not appropriate another’s culture and distort it for our own uses.
    Why is there such a strong need to honor one single race in the form of sports and school mascots? Is it really honorific? Why haven’t other races been so honored? Or is it just a way for the dominant society to take ownership of our culture, our history, and all the things that make us so menacing to them? They make a mockery of us and everything that we hold sacred. They churn out cartoonish mascots, make up dances, outlandish costumes and use the same old tired Hollywood version of Indian drumming.
    Universities, professional teams and school districts across the country continue to use Native mascots. They need to tread lightly. It can be done with respect and decorum, but there are still vestiges of racist insensitivity on display at all levels. My son’s school has many resources at their disposal to educate themselves, the students and the community at large and they need to make use of those opportunities.
    I am reminded of a conversation I had with a college student a couple of years ago. I had run down to the grocery store for some last minute Halloween items and the guy in front of me had this cheesy headdress on.

    Me: “What are you supposed to be?”
    Him: “An Indian.”
    Me: “How ironic—I’m dressed up as a white dude.”
    Him: “Why you giving me @#%&? I have a little bit of Indian in me.”
    Me: “Well, I have a little bit of white in me, too.”
    Him: “Does the headdress bother you?”
    Me: “I’m just surprised that it doesn’t bother you, since you’re Indian and all.”
    Him: “@#%$ you.”
    Me: “Who’s your family? What reservation you guys from? What tribe are you?”
    Him: “I don’t know, I just know that I’m Indian.”
    Me: “An Indian with no pride or cultural knowledge, apparently. Or just some white dude that thought it would be funny to dress up as an ‘Indian’. Why didn’t you dress up as a Black guy or a Latino guy?”
    Him: “@#% !%%@^”
    Me: “Afraid you might offend someone? But the Indian was safe—what’s the likelihood of actually running into a REAL Indian, right?”
    Him: “[email protected]#% @&&##%&!&”
    Me: “My kids and I are all dressing up as a white family next year—isn’t that just hilarious? Hopefully we can pull it off and look just as stupid as you do.”

    We are not “casino Indians”. We do not get “per cap”. All we have is our pride and no one is going to take that away from us. If schools continue to use Indian mascots—just understand that we are not going to sit idly by if you offend us. My son is not going to take part in something that devalues his culture and his identity. He is named after an Odawa and a Mohawk chief. We are not descendents of Indians, we do not “have a little bit of Indian” in us—we are Indian.
    I never want to see that look on my little daughter’s face again—my waawaaskonenhs—and understand that I will do whatever it takes to make sure that I never will.

  • #2
    I have to confess, I found a certain ironic timing in the reappearance of this topic this afternoon.

    Today, while at lunch in a good-ol'-boy BBQ place with a colleague from my lab, I got a dose of the other-side. A diner at an adjacent table starts talking -- very loudly -- about college/high school ball (the true religion of Texas) with a member of the restaurant staff. He gets going about the schools who have changed their mascots. Their argument against changing mascot names boiled down to Indians are too sensitive. "Just call 'em Injuns." And my favorite: "if they didn't like it they could go back where they came from."

    The real embarrassing thing of it was that I felt like my noticing and reacting to comments was wrong.
    Last edited by OLChemist; 08-30-2006, 10:16 PM.

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    • #3
      The lead IT guy where I work is a problem. We have a meeting -every- Friday afternoon for the project and -every- Friday from August until the end of January he wears his "redskin" gear - we're talking a whole schlocky ensemble emblazoned with that profile: t-shirt, slacks, watch face, project notebook cover, socks, belt buckle, baseball cap - even a redskin pen (complete with 24K gold electroplate).

      His office is a veritable shrine of the team's memorabilia year round.

      If someone showed up to a project meeting with any other racial stereotype emblem on nearly everything visible you can BET they'd be down in HR.

      Have I said something? Nah... why not? Well I know it'd just cause bad feelings for one thing (he is the IT task manager on this particular project), for another it wouldn't change anything. I'll just spend the next 5 months trying to get out of going to meetings - that and lending whatever support I can give to the folks who are working to change the team's name and logo to something less offensive.

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      • #4
        Go back from whenst we came eh? Where exactly is that? Hmmmm..

        Actually I got a question along these lines, maybe should start a new thread but its related to this one.

        How do you all feel about indian names being used on everyday items, such as cars, ATVs, lawnmowers etc.?

        Case in point, Pontiac, Aztec, Dodge Dakota, Honda Lakota (atv) Chevy Apache (truck from the 60's), Yazoo (lawnmower, and just found out this is a tribe).

        These are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head, but I know there are many more. Does naming a car after a tribe imbue the vehicle with the mystical powers of ruggedness? What do you think?

        Derek
        I believe in something I want to believe, not what someone wants me to believe.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by crazywolf
          Case in point, Pontiac, Aztec, Dodge Dakota, Honda Lakota (atv) Chevy Apache (truck from the 60's), Yazoo (lawnmower, and just found out this is a tribe).
          Just park 'em next to my Chevy Caucasian, Buick Belgian, Kia Korean, and Nissan Nigerian... j/k

          Seriously, these names all invoke a set of dominant culture invented images of the Indian as other, having properties beyond those of the "civilized man." These qualities which in the dominant culture link our peoples to off-road vehicles and military hardware are the same ones so often cited as the "positive" associations with Braves, Chiefs, Indians, Redskins.

          The major problem with this "positive" linkage is the objectification of our people. We become invisible and when we fail to fulfill their expectations unreal. Finally we are present in the fabric of the dominant society only in unrecognizable and often white-enacted facsimile. If they can define us, they can ultimately define us out of existence. And once we have been declared not really Indian unlike our DNA (Dead-Noble-Ancestors, American's favorite kind of Indians), they are free take up the trapping of their invented Indianess, put on our skins and become us, the legitimate inhabitants of this land.

          Yikes, I just read that.... I think I had better not post when caffeinated and high on emery paper and silver dust, LOL
          Last edited by OLChemist; 08-31-2006, 02:02 AM. Reason: Yeah, I really am educamated... And my grammar is the dead giveaway.

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          • #6
            Like I said in the other thread, the use of any race of ppl as a mascot is wrong.
            Through the good times and bad times, always pray.

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            • #7
              I guess I will keep my Subaru Forester and Ford Bronco then.

              Those are good words there OLChemist, real deep. I wish I could remember half of that wisdom when I get into an arguement with my boss. "Hang on a sec... lemme get my notes" Yeah I can see that.

              Seriously, the way it is with me, I "feel" more than I "know". Its sorta like, I know something is wrong, but I just cant put my finger on it. I was not raised on a rez so I have not been exposed to the day in, day out racism that our people go through there. On the flip side I dont really benifit from any of the spiritual aspects of our culture either. Soon I will be moving up to our ancestral homeland, Minnesota, where I will learn more about our spirituality, and probably more about the racist aspect as well.

              But for now at least, I got what I got, what little I know and what I feel, and my boss poking at me all the time. You know... he told me once he didnt think Minnesota had all that many lakes. Shows you he is not the sharpest tack in the box.

              Derek
              I believe in something I want to believe, not what someone wants me to believe.

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              • #8
                I remember a letter that went around a while back claiming that natives were very upset about college teams using tribal names as mascots. Two of the schools specifically mentioned were Central Michigan University and Florida State University. I thought that was funny as both of these schols actually have deals with the tribes (Chippewa and Seminole respectively). Not only do the tribal councils know they think it's a good idea. It also reminded me of when the Univ. of Michigan secret society was exposed, as it was pseudo-native. People were outside of the Union protesting, Al Sharpton came and gave a speech. I called up my relative who was on the tribal council at the time, he hadn't even heard about it. The "Students of Color Coalition" had made sure to call Sharpton and Farrakhan, but not the actual leadership of the tribes in Michigan. They *****ed about appropriation of sacred artifacts. I'm sorry, but I don't remember any tribes fro which a carved wooden Indian statue (like the ones which used to stand outside of tobacconist shops) is a sacred object.
                J.L. Benet

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                • #9
                  You're just gonna LOVE this guy -

                  KANSAS CITY, MO. // Dave Shipman has hit the big time.

                  That's what happens when the owner, general manager and coach of the Kansas City Chiefs have stopped by your tailgate, shared a drink with you and signed a homemade tepee you built.


                  That's what happens when Sports Illustrated begins a special pullout on tailgates by profiling your event.

                  And that's what happens when your tailgate gets to be so popular that you have to split the party in two out of safety concerns.

                  "It's been quite a ride," said Shipman, the 48-year-old founder of "The Tribe." "It's become the place to be when you're at Arrowhead Stadium."

                  Shipman and the 100 or so people who visit wear the requisite red sweatshirts, turtlenecks and coats that the Chiefs sport. Shipman also wears a headdress and cooks up a meal in honor of the opponent. (Yesterday's special: wings in honor of the Ravens.)

                  But the crowning achievement is the 7-foot tepee that Shipman, his sister Julie and childhood friend Vickie Gregory made by renting Dances With Wolves and watching it over and over again in 1990.

                  Sewn into the fabric are interchangeable arrowheads with signatures of that year's players and head coach. This season's arrowhead has autographs from 47 of the 53 players on the Chiefs' active roster and head coach Herman Edwards.

                  The parts of the tepee that cannot be replaced are reserved for the signatures of team owner Lamar Hunt, general manager/president/CEO Carl Peterson and Hall of Famers like Willie Lanier and Warren Moon.

                  The inspiration for the tepee came when Julie Shipman and Gregory dragged Dave Shipman to a Chiefs game in 1988. Sitting in Gregory's convertible and watching the tailgating before him, Shipman said, "Next year, we're going to do something."

                  The tepee has become a tradition in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot, and friends have cautioned Shipman about leaving it unprotected at times in the lot.

                  But Shipman does not share those concerns. "It belongs to all of us," he said, motioning to fans walking past. "I display it for everyone. Besides, who could try to sell it on eBay and get away with it?"

                  - from the Baltimore Sun, December 11, 2006

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I can remember the same sense of confusion the first time I attended a football game at college. Maybe I should have known better. I chose a school called Indiana University of PA .. thier mascot was the Indians... I didn't choose it for its sports...
                    but I spent a good deal of my college career trying to explain why a frat boy spazing out in hollywood indian costume was really demeaning.
                    It took a few years and with the support of a few orgainizations IUP got rid of the "indian" mascot and replaced it witha bear...
                    fans in the stands would then dress as a bear...dressed as an indian.
                    its been 10 years since I graduated and IUP is finally dropping the whole indian refernce and is going with the flying squirrells or something.

                    the argument i hear most often is that its tradition.
                    We've always had Indians as a mascot"
                    what I hear is "We've always treated Indians badly"
                    just because its traditon, doesn't always make it right.
                    There is only one success; to be able to live your life in your own way.

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                    • #11
                      I'm not fond of the parody types of mascots, but not all of them are. The Seminoles and the Chippewa teams work with their respective tribes to make sure they are not protrayed in a demeaning manner. The tribe actually give the teams money, and the colleges give them scholarships and business.

                      The school I am currently teaching at are the Indians. When I first hired in, I asked what tribe they were supposed to represent. I was told, "I don't know, just Indian." I was asked if I wanted to come do a "war dance" at the pep rallies and such. I'm not about to do that, as it reminds me of the demeaning Wild West shows. I'm not there for the amusement of a bunch of ignorant people. I do plan on teaching them a bit, and will hopefully clear up some of their ignorance. I might even wear my traditional regalia one day to show them that the tribes weren't all tepees and war-paint. I'm also working on bringing the creative writing kids to a pow wow, where they can listen to the storytellers.

                      But I don't think that we are the only ones who are made into racially based mascots. Here are just a few off the top of my head: Canucks, Saracens, Celtics, Fighting Irish, Rainbow Warriors, Spartans, Vikings, Northmen, Berzerkers, Huns, Tartars, Cossacks, Voyageurs, Berbers, etc. I'm not saying that excuses it, but it does show that it's a larger problem.
                      J.L. Benet

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Aaron Bennett
                        The school I am currently teaching at are the Indians. When I first hired in, I asked what tribe they were supposed to represent. I was told, "I don't know, just Indian." I was asked if I wanted to come do a "war dance" at the pep rallies and such. I'm not about to do that, as it reminds me of the demeaning Wild West shows. I'm not there for the amusement of a bunch of ignorant people. I do plan on teaching them a bit, and will hopefully clear up some of their ignorance.

                        But I don't think that we are the only ones who are made into racially based mascots. Here are just a few off the top of my head: Canucks, Saracens, Celtics, Fighting Irish, Rainbow Warriors, Spartans, Vikings, Northmen, Berzerkers, Huns, Tartars, Cossacks, Voyageurs, Berbers, etc. I'm not saying that excuses it, but it does show that it's a larger problem.
                        I think you bring up a good point- that there are other mascots named after people or ethnic/racial groups. I think there are two big differences between the other "people" mascots and Indian ones. It seems like they fall into 2 categories- either groups that are historical like the Spartans, Vikings, Huns, etc, or groups that have named themselves- like Boston and Nortre Dame with large Irish and Catholic populations naming the Celtics and the Fightin Irish, Canada and the Canucks, etc. And then, there are the Indian mascots. We aren't people of the past, which I think mascots reinforces, and we haven't named ourselves (except in the few instances where tribes have approved the mascots, which is like what, 2 or 3?) Instead people have named us and try to portray us in a historical light, like you're saying, in an ignorant way that says all Indians today act like the old Wild West Shows. So my personal opinion is that Indians are not actually like other people mascots.

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