Midweek Motivation: "Savage That", an awesome video by Dartmouth Natives

April 18, 2012 — 9 Comments
I have a million things swimming in my head this week (I promise I’ll write about some of them soon)–from the hideous Coachella headdress pics that keep popping up in my inbox, to those new Johnny Depp/Navajo pictures, to the water rights ish going down in Navajo, to this ridiculously racist kid’s party…and sometimes I just need a little push to keep me going. This video, put together by Native students at Dartmouth, is an awesome example of how something simple can have a powerful message. It’s stuff like this that helps me keep pushing back! 

Dartmouth has had a long and frustrating history with their Indian mascot, and it’s an issue that won’t seem to go away, despite the best efforts of a strong campus Native community and alumni base. Since like 90% of my Native friends on the East Coast are Dartmouth Indians (I don’t know how that happened…), I’ve heard firsthand plenty of stories of horrible ignorance about mascots and Indian issues on campus. Read some of the comments on the youtube video if you don’t believe me.

UPDATE: I was just sent this article from The Dartmouth Review, which puts the youtube comments in context. Choice quote:

“First off, it trades on the idea that nicknames derived from American Indians are inherently offensive. This is a bit of a stretch, as just about every poll done on the matter has indicated that a significant majority of American Indians are completely fine with such nicknames or consider them an honor. A glance at the nicknames used at reservation high schools in my home state of South Dakota finds several tribal nicknames and even one school calling its teams the Redmen. While there is no need to doubt the legitimacy of the offense some take, it must be acknowledged that they are an aggrieved minority, and one can find an aggrieved minority for just about anything.”

Um, no. Just no. They ARE inherently offensive. Those polls you cite have been shown to have sampling and bias issues. A “significant majority” of YOUR campus community is telling you that these mascots are offensive, and that should mean something. There are plenty of people in South Dakota fighting to change those school mascots, including the state school board (all the way back in 2001), and reservation high schools that don the Indian name are totally different. There’s a difference between choosing how you represent yourself versus how outsiders represent you. That’s called power, and why the whole “fighting Irish” argument doesn’t hold up. And your last sentence is just patently dismissive and dripping with privilege.

So to those out there that think the Native students at Dartmouth are being “too sensitive” or should just “get over it”– Native mascots are demeaning and offensive. Period. There is nothing “honoring” about them. They just serve to further marginalize and erase the presence of Native peoples. So “get over” your privilege and realize that these images are hurtful and wrong.

Keep up the great work guys, I know it took a lot of guts to put yourselves out there with this, and I hope the video will open the eyes of your classmates to their insensitivity and ignorance. I also encourage other schools dealing with Indian Mascot issues to think up their own ways of pushing back–and, as always, let me know!

A selection from my (many) posts on Indian Mascots:

The Fighting Sioux are back: Part 1 (the passionate plea) and Part 2 (the science behind why mascots are harmful)

Thanks for the severed head, you’ve proved my point
A reminder of why this blog exists: One reader’s experience (A former Stanford Indian supporter)
The Stanford Indian: Then and now

and the link to the video:

Youtube: Savage That!

PS–Dartmouth folks, I’ll see you at your powwow! (Stanny friends, don’t hate me…)

(Thanks Autumn, Karenina, Meg, Stew, Preston, JesAnne, Laura, Mattie, and Taylor!)

Adrienne K.

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  • Rob Schmidt

    So a few people are imagining racism? It’s more correct to say most people are ignoring racism. For instance, they ignore the incontrovertible evidence that whites and blacks get different treatment because of race.

    Given this demonstrated ignorance, polls on racial issues such as mascots are almost meaningless. “Four out of five Americans don’t believe the dictionary defines ‘redskin’ as offensive (even though it does).” In other words, the findings amount to “four out of five racists deny they’re racists.”

  • Guest

    I think like you said a big issue is these “polls” that supposedly show how american indians aren’t offended, but if you actually look into the statistics of these polls, an incredibly small percentage of those asked are american indian, while the majority of the pollees are other races, therefore, I think, making the polls completely irrelevant.

  • Becky

    A mascot is sort of a team “pet” isn’t it? How is it NOT offensive that Native people are seen as pets?

  • http://bangyoulater.com/ xxx

    I don’t understand why can’t they be understanding?

  • Rob Schmidt

    The morality of mascots is like the morality of slavery or Jim Crow laws. Or of forcing Indians off their land and onto reservations. Or of mocking women and minorities in general. All of which were popular and commonplace at one point.

    Even if the polls are correct, you don’t put some things to a vote. Indian mascots discriminate against a particular race whether anyone likes it or not.

    “Here’s the thing about rights. They’re not supposed to be voted on. That’s why they call them rights.”

    –Rachel Maddow

  • Taylor Payer

    Hi Adrienne. Thanks so much for posting Savage Media’s video. This post is great. My name is Taylor and I am a member of Native Americans at Dartmouth and Savage Media. I have decided to write an op-ed about the mascot in the mainstream Dartmouth newspaper in response to the dialogue about our video. Wondering if this is something you can advise me on?

    Also thank you again for acknowledging our work on the video, but I would love for you to include the other people who helped with the video and the founding of Savage Media. Other essential people were Preston, JesAnne, Laura, Mattie, and myself (Taylor.) Also Occupy Dartmouth donated the paint. Just wanted to make you aware of the other people the made the video possible!

    Thanks again. I love your blog and having been using it with Dartmouth’s Women of Color Collective.

    Let’s please meet during powwow weekend!

    • Adrienne_K

      Thanks Taylor! I just updated the post with all of your names. Keep up the good work!

  • http://diceytillerman.livejournal.com/ rebecca

    Love it.

    Wish they hadn’t used a fat guy for the bad guy, though. That’s another stereotype: fat = selfish and lazy (in this case lazy thinking).

  • Ishtaska

    Loved the video and the comments. It’s great to see that Native students at Dartmouth are keeping up the battle against using native images as mascots.It also brought up an interesting concept of privilege specifically white privilege and power because until they realize what is happenening they will never really no the problem and why we as Native people see the mascot issue as a problem.What is also very problematic for us as Native people is when our own youth buy into the image of what the dominate society portrays “Us” as when they use native caricatures as mascots.