Research shows that these team Indian-oriented names and mascots can establish an unwelcome and hostile learning environment for AI/AN students. It also reveals that the presence of AI/AN mascots directly results in lower self-esteem and mental health for AI/An adolescents and young adults. And just as importantly, studies show that these mascots undermine the educational experience of all students, particularly those with little or no contact with indigenous and AI/AN people. In other words, these stereotypical representations are too often understood as factual representations and thus "contribute to the development of cultural biases and prejudices.This is hardly the first time the negative impact of such names and mascots on Native children has been noted. In 2005, the American Psychological Association called for an "immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations." The American Sociological Association said in 2007 that all AI/AN names, mascots and logos should be done away with. The American Counseling Association in 2011 passed a resolution asking their members to push for the elimination of these stereotypes. Stephanie A. Fryberg was the lead author of a study in 2008, Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots. Most recently, Michael A. Friedman compiled a report on various studies in his The Harmful Psychological Effects of the Washington Football Mascot.
Nor is Indian opposition to the names, logos and mascots new or some invention of whites, as has been claimed by some critics who oppose changing team names and mascots. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), a pan-Indian advocacy group founded in 1944, has been pushing for an end to such stereotypes since 1968.
Stegman traces his lineage to the Assiniboine First Nations tribe of Saskatchewan and has previously worked for the 70-year-old NCAI and as majority counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs under the leadership of Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, who retired last year. Phillips is a professor at American University Washington College of Law. Although the most prominent controversy over team names and mascots surrounds the National Football League's Washington R*dsk*ns, the two authors point out that it is hardly the only one.
In fact, at one time, more than 3,000 teams in elementary and secondary schools had Indian-oriented names, mascots and logos; more than 2,000 have changed their names under pressure from tribes, individual Indians and their allies and the NCAI. (Full disclosure: One of those schools is Arvada High in Colorado, where I graduated 50 years ago. In 1962, the only two Indians at the school, my Kiowa friend Tim Kloberdanz and me, were ridiculed for seeking an end to the R*dsk*ns team name, mascot and logo. It wasn't until the 1990s, after a huge community fight, that the name was changed to the Reds, and subsequently the Bulldogs.)
Below the fold you can read how some Indians view Indian-oriented team names and mascots.
Among the Indians Stegman and Phillips spoke with on their views about names and mascots:
Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown, Miwok student and football player:
"One of our school's biggest rivals is the Calaveras Redskins. ... Worst of all, the most offensive stuff doesn't even come from the Redskins. It comes from their rival schools, mine included. I have heard my own friends yelling around me, 'Kill the Redskins!' or 'Send them on the Trail of Tears!'"Joaquin Gallegos, Jicarilla Apache Nation and Santa Ana Pueblo:
"The issue impacts me because as long as the Washington football team and others retain pejoratives as names, mascots, and are allowed to do so, it says that it is ok to marginalize me, my family, and Indian country—that it is ok for Native peoples to remain on the periphery of American consciousness."Sarah Schilling, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians:
"I distinctly remember listening to a radio talk show one morning discussing changing the mascot of a local northern Michigan school because it poorly depicted Native American people. Non-Native people defending the mascot seemed to populate the airtime. They all spoke about school and community pride, or fond high school memories. A Native American mascot seemed to have nothing to do with actual Native American people to them. A white person's school pride was put above a Native American person's sense of identity. A white person's fond memories were more important than a Native American youth attending a school they felt still wore the mascot of oppression."Cierra Fields, Cherokee, member of the NCAI's Youth Cabinet:
When I see people wearing headdresses and face paint or doing the tomahawk chop, it makes me feel demeaned. The current society does not bother to learn that our ways, customs, dress, symbols and images are sacred. They claim it's for honor but I don't see the honor in non-Natives wearing face paint or headdresses as they are not warriors and who have earned the right. My heritage and culture is not a joke. My heritage and culture is not a fashion statement.Stegman and Phillips make several modest recommendations, one of which says "the federal government and foundation community should identify and fund new research on the impact of derogatory AI/AN representations in schools."
For me, it ultimately boils down to respect.
As for the Washington R*dsk*ns, no study seems likely to change the mind of owner Dan Snyder, who has expended considerable time and money in a public relations campaign to keep the offensive name intact, going so far as to promote the views of a faux Indian "chief" as proof that Indians don't object to a term that has been a racist slur since at least the 1890s. The only thing likely to change that obstinacy is a campaign that hurts him in the wallet.