When offensive Indian mascots hit too close to home

In I Am Not A Mascot, indian mascots, mascots, stanford indian, Stanford mascot by Adrienne K.80 Comments

I posted on Monday about some of my amazing Native friends that I got to catch up with while on campus for my college reunion. I had an incredible weekend, so much fun, but there was a bit of a dark underbelly to it all when I went to our homecoming football game.

I’ve written several times about how Stanford was the “Stanford Indians” until 1971, and how student activism was the root cause of the mascot change. Just a few months ago, when I was at the leadership team training for reunion, I posted about how heartened I was to see this passage in the training handbook, declaring that “these images perpetuate stereotypes, are hurtful and offensive to American Indians and others, and are particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country.”

So, imagine my surprise, when in the span of just a few hours I was able to capture all of the following images, without even really trying. I’ll include the stories with each of them–though admittedly, I was often too shocked or angered to engage in long dialogues with any of the offenders.

The image above was the second encounter (I’ll post the first in a second), a young white-looking undergrad, who seemed all-too-pleased that I wanted to take a picture of his shirt. While I wish I could have pulled off the 1491’s response, I just took the picture, and then told him “Thanks for your help, I’m documenting all of the racist mascots at the game.” I didn’t stick around to see his response.

So this one I couldn’t believe. I spotted this pin within 10 seconds of being on campus, on the hat of an older gentleman walking with a cane. I couldn’t get close enough to see what was on it, but then, my friend Elena and I ended up in line next to “Barbara” who had it lovingly pinned to her name tag:

Yeah, that’s a wild-eyed tomahawk wielding Indian holding the SKIN of the Arizona Wildcat. Right, this is honoring, this is showing pride in Native peoples and traditions. I felt sick to my stomach as I took the picture. She was babbling on and on about the mascot back in the day, and honestly, my ears were roaring with shame and rage, and I missed the majority of what she said. I caught the end though; “We always said, when they got rid of the Indian, ‘well, that’s just another Indian out of a job!'” I looked at her with a blank face and turned my back.

As we were leaving the game, we walked past an alumni tailgate with a bunch of kids running around and playing football. They had traffic cones demarcating their space, and on each of them, Stanford Indian stickers:

As I was crouching down to take pictures, a woman from the tailgate walked over smiling. I looked up and said “Way to go teaching all these kids how to grow up racist. That’s really the Stanford way.” She looked confused, I pointed to the sticker, and then walked away.

Not two minutes later, spotted this couple walking across the street:

The front said “Stanford Indians.” At this point my friends got embarrassed and walked the other way, thinking I was going to confront a “cute old couple.” I didn’t.

Finally, walking back from a post-game coffee break, we ran into this couple:

They too, were delighted that I wanted to take their picture. I had to google what the Cardinal Council was, and apparently they are the “student-athlete representative body, which acts as the leison between Stanford athletes, the Athletic department, Stanford University, and the NCAA.” In other words, an officially sanctioned university committee. Believe me, they, along with the class of ’62, will be hearing from me. (UPDATE 10/25: I’ve been informed by the university that these particular shirts are not officially affiliated with the SAAC or Stanford. So if anyone knows what “Cardinal Council” this is referring to, please let me know.)

The scary and most upsetting thing to me is that all of these images are new. These aren’t some kids that dug them out of their parent’s basement, or some old alums who dusted off their vintage sweater. I felt, as I was leaving campus, that we were witnessing a scary resurgence in Stanford Indian mascot apparel.

Sure enough, the day I got home, a friend on campus forwarded me this email:

From: NIck H
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2012 11:05 AM
Sent: Friday, October 05, 2012 11:05 AMTo: Subject: 

To meet the overwhelming desire of, well…everyone, I am starting the process to make a new batch of those magnificent Stanford Indian Sweaters that people won’t shut up about. I don’t mean to toot their horn or anything, but they’re kind of a big deal…if you wear one you could potentially own many leather bound books, and your apartment MIGHT smell of rich mahogany. DON’T MISS OUT ON WHAT COULD POTENTIALLY BE THE OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME! Here’s the link to the google doc to fill out your name, quantity, and size:   

Here’s the link to look at the design, if you haven’t already seen one already (pfft like thats a possibility):http://www.customink.com/designs/indians2/shg0-000q-3zxn/retrieve  

The more people that get them the cheaper they are. But last time they ended up being around 25 dollars. If you’re a hipster, don’t get one, its definitely already cool to wear these.  

-Nick “but I was wearing mine before it was cool” H

The image? Here you go:

So, Nick, who was “wearing [it] before it was cool”–This is decidedly not cool. At all. The language in the email is flippant and trying oh-so-hard to be subversive and cool, and as a result, becomes even more hurtful. The fact that these are in high demand is extremely concerning to me. Oh, and that google doc? I took the liberty of doctoring it a bit:

You can click to make it bigger, but I basically wrote a note in the first column of the spreadsheet, resisting the urge to erase all the orders, reiterating all the things that I say on the blog, and leaving a list of resources. So now, anyone who clicks through will see that first…until Nick H. sees it, of course. Huzzah

But I can’t even tell you how hurtful it was for me to see those images on campus and in my inbox, and to hear the folks defending it (or celebrating it, in the case of Nick’s email) makes me so upset. The biggest thing I kept returning to was that these images erase our humanity. Mascots are animals, mythical creatures–meant to be “brave” and “vicious” (and don’t get on my case about the vikings or the fighting Irish, I’ve covered that ad nauseum, it’s not. the. same. thing. There is not current and ongoing systematic oppression and racism of Irish or “vikings” in the US)–but we are a real, diverse, and contemporary group of people. I can’t stand being equated with a “wildcat” or a bear. 

There are real issues of power here too–these people that I took the pictures of made me feel, if only for a moment, like an unwelcome outsider on my own campus. A campus of a university that I love with all of my heart, and have donated so much time and effort to, made me feel like I wasn’t deserving of a spot at reunion. In their eyes, I was a savage in a loincloth, with a big nose and wild eyes, not a Cherokee woman who graduated with a double major, has a masters, and is completing her doctorate. A campus that welcomes this kind of open marginalization, and yes, racism, of Native peoples is creating a system wherein Native students, alumni, faculty, and staff, will never be seen as equals.

You may say you’re “honoring” us–but I’m telling you, as a Native person, that this in no way honors me. My amazing friend M. posted this on Facebook yesterday, and I think this sums it up beautifully: 

We would like to be honored by seeing our culture taken down from the shelves of costume shops. We would like to be honored by being consistently included as a whole racial demographic in social and scientific research. We would like to be honored by not being accused of taking some other student’s place at Stanford simply because we’re Native (even though we’re often accused of not looking Native enough). I, and so many others, would be honored if we could – someday soon – stop explaining why we are so deeply offended.

Exactly. I would add that we would like to be honored by the recognition of our treaty rights and tribal sovereignty as well. 

So this trend is extremely troubling. I’ll be writing to the head of Reunion Homecoming, and I feel that a letter to the administration is necessary as well. This needs to be stopped, these images and actions are completely unacceptable. 

This case at Stanford by no means exists in isolation. DeeJay NDN of A Tribe Called Red has been battling a local football team called the “Redskins” in Ottawa for the last few months, and the overt racism and scathing commentary he’s received shows how close to the surface racism against Native peoples truly is. The 1491s also hit up University of Utah (their mascot is the Utes) recently, and had some interesting conversations with tailgaters. Their video is here, and definitely worth a watch.

So to the people I chatted with, Nick H., the students who ordered a Stanford Indian sweatshirt, the Cardinal Council, the Class of 1962, and anyone else who donned a Indian image without thinking twice. Just stop for a moment, and really listen. Push aside the defensive and dismissive feelings, and realize that it’s not totally your fault. You’ve been socialized in a system that has normalized racism against Native people. You’ve been raised in a society that sugar-coats its colonial and genocidal past, and ignores the modern presence of Native peoples. So maybe you weren’t personally responsible for any of that. But now, I’ve taken away your ignorance defense. You now know how hurtful and harmful these images are, you know how it feels for me, a Native person, to see them at my alma mater. It’s what you do with that information that will show your true character. Dismiss it, defend you actions, and you’re now complacent in the system. Fight it, right the wrong, and you’ve shown that you won’t stand by and let oppression continue. Bravo.

Resources and previous posts galore:

A reminder of why this blog exists, one reader’s experience (Stanford alum who changed his mind about the mascot)
The Fighting Sioux are back, my passionate plea against Indian Mascots
The Fighting Sioux Part 2, the science (citing a study done by Stanford alumna Stephanie Fryberg)
Thanks for the severed head, you’ve proved my point
Stanford Indian, then and now (showing the “official policy I quoted from above)

The Native American Cultural Center at Stanford’s mascot history
Why Indian mascots and costumes are never ok (blog post by a Stanford undergrad–and in support, I agree with the “never ok”! The comments got a little crazy, as per usual)

More resources? Feel free to leave them in the comments.


  1. CanadianaKa

    Y’know, I’ve always hated people who post a comment just to rave about how OHMYGOSHWONDERFUL the writer is…

    But stepping into my big girl hypocrite shoes – yay you. Thank you. Not First Nations over here, but a minority of another group, also often seen on costume shelves and derided “all in fun,” and cross-post your work frequently. Thank you thank you. Swiping (with credit!) the line “We would like to be honored by seeing our culture taken down from the shelves of costume shops.” Beautifully put, M!

    1. Sariel

      I’d see the blog post on the Fighting Sioux and the study that was done. It shows that even “positive” mascots have negative effects. I’d point out that it still relegates Natives to the past and fails to acknowlege them in the present. That and that the fans behavior (both fans rooting for the home team and fans rooting against the home team) reflects racist stereotypes.

  2. finette

    I found your blog sometime after I received my MLIS from the University of Illinois. I’m a white person originally from South Dakota, a state that is far from blameless in its historical and current dealings with Native people–but I certainly knew that Chief Illiniwek was Not OK. UIUC has one of the top-rated MLIS programs in the country, so I was thrilled to get in, but that pride and excitement were tempered by embarrassment once I got there and became familiar with the racist mascot. This post reminds me of a few incidents from that other debate, which I think neatly disprove the whole “honoring” argument:

    1. A student on an online message board saying that at least the mascot provided a “positive” association with Native people, because the only other things s/he could think of were alcoholism and casinos.
    2. An incident which I think was recounted in Carol Spindel’s book “Dancing at Halftime”: Native students at the University of Iowa walking through their own Frat Row under “Indians” lynched in effigy, because their team was playing UIUC.
    3. After the NCAA imposed sanctions on the school, a student newspaper editorial cartoon showing the mascot on a horse in the stereotypical “drooping Indian” posture, with the caption “NCAA Trail of Tears.”

    The utter obtuseness of people on this issue made me want to bash my head on the nearest solid object. I think the “mythical creature” aspect played a large part in it. Although there are of course many individual Natives who live mostly in Chicago, there are no longer any registered tribes in Illinois as they were forced on the actual Trail of Tears. So, many people raised in the state don’t know any Natives–or don’t realize that they actually do–and have trouble believing that they’re actually hurting living, breathing people. Except then when one is able to show them an example of someone who’s hurt/offended, they come up with all kinds of weaselly excuses about how that person is just oversensitive and doesn’t get what they’re really doing, etc. ARGH!!

    1. Christie Bradley

      As a kid at a school with a pirate for a mascot, I was told to make a poster for homecoming that depicted a pirate ship firing on “Indians in canoes.” And I did it. I knew I was part Muskogee but didn’t really understand what that meant and how horribly accurate the picture I was trying to draw really was.

    2. Omar

      UIUC Undergrad here. Maybe this is just from being a person of color, but I assumed – coming into UIUC – that Chief Illiniwek was long ago dealt with. With how dehumanizing Native mascot caricatures are, I assumed that the consensus was that removing the mascot back in 2007 was for the best.

      And how wrong I was. From the overabundance of “The Chief” merchandise, to the Save-The-Chief organization, to actually *meeting* the current (unofficial) The Chief, it’s clear that this matter is far from settled. It’s disheartening how many times I have had to argue in vain that overtly racist sentiments are – in fact – overtly racist.

      1. finette

        Yeah, I was there in 2005-06 and it was pretty ironic how the university had all kinds of diversity programs while stubbornly clinging to the mascot. I actually received an alumni survey within the past year that asked if I ever encountered racism on campus, and I responded that the main example of racism I could think of was university-sponsored.

  3. Dana

    Hi. I’ve been browsing your blog for a bit, and I just wanted to thank you. I’m from Italy and, although Hollywood movies and US cultural products are imported all the time, I had NEVER seen/read/heard one single thing about contemporary Native Americans. As if they didn’t even exist… except to make Walker Texas Ranger look deep and meditative in one or two episodes. In Europe, people know nothing about natives. The last we heard about them was when Spaghetti Western movies and books were all the rage when our parents were kids. So just, thank you for all the information you post and all the links to other resources. It’s probably completely useless that now one Italian person knows a liiiiiittle bit about it, but I’m glad I do.

  4. Christie Bradley

    I am part Muskogee–enough that everywhere I go people speculate as to my ethnicity and country of origin. Most think I am Asian, though one angry woman, who, oddly enough was accusing me of racism because I asked to see her ID, told me to “get back across the border!” However, I grew up separated from my heritage. Apparently, as my daddy is now admitting, it used to be a source of shame for our family. I grew up, as he did, watching Westerns and playing “cowboys and Indians” and could not understand how it could be offensive to do things like that. I didn’t understand the mascot issue either. And then I got older and started reading history…it completely changed my point of view. I am now trying to learn more about my heritage–I do know now that I am a direct descendant of Chief Red Eagle–and drive everyone crazy by trying to get them to care that a genocidal maniac is on our twenty dollar bill. As to mascots, I think this issue results from a misunderstanding on both sides that should have been fixed long long ago. There are a lot of white people who really do believe that they are honoring Native Americans by calling their beloved teams after them. However, to me, now that it is clear that Native Americans would rather not be lumped with pirates, tigers, blue devils, etc (and I think that is a very legitimate wish!), these teams need to be renamed and new mascots chosen. I mean, no one would think it was appropriate to name a team “The Fighting Chinese” and have a kid running around in a giant plush mandarin suit complete with squinting eyes and pigtail (or at least, I hope they wouldn’t). It’s only because the Spanish and Andrew Jackson were so successful, at killing and isolating Native Americans from society that this is still considered acceptable. And of course, we’re having to fight tradition here. “But it’s always been a Injun here! That’s what it was when I were a youngun, and that’s how it should stay!” I think eventually we will see the end of living human beings used as team mascots, but it is going to take about fifty years because tradition usually wins. Let’s hope we all live that long so we can celebrate!

  5. Kelsey

    It breaks my heart that the situation is regressing like that–like it’s somehow cool to go back to the “good ole days” of really overt racism. I really hope the Stanford administration and alumni (and current students) take your response to heart.

  6. Mark Fitzgerald

    I respect Native Americans. The problem people have with the mascots is ….I can find no other word… ridiculous. I am Irish Catholic. Notre Dame has a green leprechan dancing around the sidelines and it would NEVER CROSS my mind to be upset about that.

    Native Americans have much to be proud of and their culture stands for the most part very dignified against the European invasion of this land and what they did to the native people. Instead of getting bent about Indian Mascots your time would be better spent educating people about Native American culture and history.

    I hope Stanford does go back to the Indians. Much better mascot than the Cardinal…and that stupid dancing tree. That dumb dancing tree is what you should really be upset about 🙂

    I know I know….everyone hates me now cause I had a differing opinion. Hate away. Indians = cool mascot, Dancing tree = one of the dumbest EVER.

    I will give you Redskins though. That I can see being very offensive.

    1. Dalik Magnus

      So you want to go back to a mascot that a large part of the University has explicitly labelled as offensive because it’s a “cool mascot”?


      However, as a thought experiment, let’s pick apart your argument.

      Some key points: I am Roman Catholic, Filipino American, and a Stanford alumnus.

      The Fighting Irish: (1) As the author states in the article, “There is not current and ongoing systematic oppression and racism of Irish or “vikings” in the US.” (2) Furthermore, the University of Notre Dame is “an independent, national Catholic university.” The decision by Irish Catholic members of UND to officially represent themselves in this way is a very different situation than we (non-Native members of UND) demanding that Native students essentially suck it up for the good of a mascot.

      Mascot or Teaching?: You set up a false dichotomy in your second paragraph. Native students and University community members are educating people about Native American culture and history (See http://studentaffairs.stanford.edu/nacc for some examples of such efforts). That doesn’t mean that they can’t also advocate to ensure that this mascot does not become recognized by the University. They can teach and ensure that their heritage is protected from inappropriate representations.

      Additionally, Stanford does not have a mascot (the dancing tree is the mascot of LSJUMB); we are represented by the nickname (Stanford) Cardinal. There have been many other options proffered and voted on by current students (the Robber Barons is my favorite). Why use a nickname that a large part of the University community find offensive?

      Finally, I don’t hate you because you have a differing opinion. I simply disagree with you.

      1. Kate


        I’m another Irish woman, and while yes, discrimination against the Irish has and does occur, perhaps more notably in Britain and the Commonwealth, and while the Irish have a disturbing history of being discriminated against, The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are a different matter. If an Irish wants something to get actually upset about, it’s not that particular mascot. You’d spend your time better at fighting back against the reduction of our entire culture to drunken St. Patrick’s Day parties. The poster above makes a great point: Notre Dame’s sizable Irish community chose that mascot for themselves. That’s completely different from a university such as Stanford choosing a Native American mascot against the wishes of the Native American community. It’s not about having a cool mascot. I’m from Massachusetts: my baseball team is called the Red Sox, which is about as lame as you can get in the hierarchy of fierce mascots. Socks, dude. But you know what? That’s fine. It’s not about having a cool mascot. It’s about having one that everyone can enjoy and root for. If it is deeply offensive to people, then why bother? What does anyone gain from that? The knowledge that you’re offensive and cruel? I wasn’t aware that was the point of sports.

    2. 8mph Ansible

      No Mr. Woe-is-me. No one hates you for having a different opinion.

      But I at least hate how you talk about respecting us then proceed to delve into cluelessness with your highly flawed understanding of matters.

      Your opinion is welcome yet you need to pay attention.

    3. de_Pizan

      In addition to what others have said, there’s a difference between a “green leprechaun” mascot and the mascot in question. The leprechaun is not a real person or race, it is a creature from mythology. The real equivalent would be if a school used a mascot of a wendigo, pukwudgie or thunderbird. The Stanford mascot in question is not only one of a real people, but a caricature of those people.
      If the mascot was truly there to honor, why didn’t they work with the tribe in question like the Florida State Seminoles or University of Utah Utes, neither of whom have a “mascot” costume of the tribe; Florida has a real person and Utah uses a red-tailed hawk instead. Both schools have worked with the tribes on the representation and gotten permission for use of the name.

    4. Jay

      So, because the Notre Dame mascot is a representation of your people and culture, you feel you can speak with some authority to say whether it is offensive or not. That sounds fair.

      It seems to me that natives are only asking to be able to do the same thing you just did– to assess whether portrayals of their own people are offensive or not.

      It is up to each community of people to make those calls.

    5. Ian_Campeau

      A leprechaun is a mythical being. Are you saying that First Nation people are fictitious mythical beings from the past?

    6. Dean Chavers

      If you respect Native Americans you shud stop calling us names, doing the “woo woo” while slapping your lips, wearing fake feathers, drinking out of coffee cup with a big-nosed Indian on it, and having Indian mascots.

      I am one of the first people to resist the Stanford Indian symbol. I also hate the names squaw (the worst one), savages, redskins, warriors, Navajos, Apaches, Siouxs, and all the other racist names. Stop it!

  7. Sum

    As someone who didn’t learn about the racism behind “Indian” mascots until going to Stanford, and even then mostly because some of my friends are active in the Stanford native community, seems to me that in confronting some of the people who were ignorant perhaps being more explanatory than “Way to go teaching all these kids how to grow up racist. That’s really the Stanford way.” and walking away would help your cause. It must have been an emotionally frustrating experience, so being cordial in engaging these individuals is a lot to ask. But perhaps this resurgence of the “Stanford Indians” is because there are a lot of people who forget why or just plain don’t know the real significance of why Stanford changed it’s mascot

    I am sorry to hear that our alma mater still has not yet overcome some of it’s racist history.

  8. Fuzzbear

    What amazes me, aside from the Indians mascot/nickname just being wrong, period, is that people act like dropping it was some big affront to “tradition.” Stanford was ORIGINALLY the Cardinal and didn’t adopt the Indians moniker until the ’30s after a spirit week with an Indian theme. So as of 1971, the two nicknames were just about equal in their longevity. This is not some sacred legacy people are clinging to, it’s racism and offensiveness.

    1. bsaunders

      Hmm … thanks. I never knew that as a student. I heard the “tradition” argument, too, along with the idea that Cardinal was a weak band-aid job of a name for political correctness. This is good to know – and use in conversation!

    2. MJ

      I never knew that either… re my earlier post… now I can get the story correct…

    3. JGRob

      This is not entirely true. While I support the dropping of the offensive imagery of the Indian and do not wish to create a conflagration, referring to Stanford athletic teams as ‘the Indians’ was common enough at the turn of the 20th century for Cal to write a fight song in 1907 about fighting Indians and using a tomahawk (the Stanford Axe, in possession of Cal at the time). To say that Stanford was known as the Indians only at 1930 when it was formally adopted is not fair. It was in existence for much longer.

  9. Proud NY and US Native

    I agree with everything you say except for the ongoing corruption and hijacking of the term “Native American.” I was born in the US. I am “native” American. Look it up. I am sure that they have some dictionaries at the Stanford library.

    Call yourselves “Indigenous Americans,” “Aboriginal Americans,” “The First Nations,” whatever. Just don’t try to claim exclusive use of a word that does not mean what you imply.

    1. Lu

      If I were you I would pick another battle. Why are you guarding the word “native” so jealously? Why are you picking apart the phrase “Native American” because it contains the word “native,” which has a number of uses? And why in the world did you feel the need to be so condescending to the blog author by suggesting she is unfamiliar with the library? If you really do agree with everything else Adrienne says, how is it that you think that your issue is important enough to throw at her here? Do you really think that anyone is implying you are not a native-born American? Just what is it that you think someone is taking away from you here?

      Honestly, I have problems with the misuse and abuse of the English language myself, but it’s really not necessary to insist that the word “native” be used in only the context you say. And it’s also really not OK to tell historically oppressed people what they should call themselves.

    2. canaduck

      Oh, shut up already and stop making the rest of us “native” Americans look like pissy, condescending idiots with nothing better to do with our time than gripe with oppressed people over the use of a word. Lu said it much better than I did but she’s probably just a nicer person. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  10. Sam

    That is some sickening bullshit. And you’ve taken it on wonderfully as usual. It makes me so sad that people still need to be told this stuff…

  11. Demac


    Before I started reading your blog, I (somehow, I don’t know how) didn’t realize that all these stereotypical depictions of Indians are deeply offensive. The cartoonish depictions, portraying Indians as stupid or vicious, I realized were terrible in the past. But the pictures of Indians in traditional headdresses and garb? It just never occurred to me that those might be as offensive to Native Americans as depictions of Asians in traditional qipao or butchered versions of kimono are to me. I guess I had just never thought about it. Thanks to your writings, I have, and I’m going to start making other people aware of it (particularly as Halloween is coming up) too. Thanks for your help in clearing my eyes.

  12. Robert Armstrong '87

    When I was an undergrad, we decided the mascot should be–and only be–about one thing. Leland Jr.’s dad, Leland, Sr. Our suggestion: The TYCOONS or possibly even the ROBBER BARONS. Not sure either rolls off the tongue like Cardinal or Indians, but they do in all honesty say, “Yes we all know our founder did some… um… unscrupulous stuff.”

  13. 02Alum

    Hi Adrienne,
    I caught a link to your post on the official Stanford facebook feed, so it’s at least good to see that the “powers that be” behind that operation (no idea who they are) are not running away from the issue.

    I was at the reunion, and while I didn’t see (or probably more accurately notice) the depictions that you documented, it’s certainly troubling to hear of their resurgence.

    Might I suggest you submit an op-ed to the Stanford Daily? This is a conversation that needs to be had on campus, especially for the undergrads who seem too ignorant to know why this is so offensive…

  14. 8mph Ansible

    Another day that ends in ‘y’ but such rage inducing bs should be documented and shared. Big e-hugs for you having to go through that.

    Maybe you should make business cards for the site.

    1. Delux

      I’m starting to wonder if ppl who want to lecture her about being oversensitive should pay in cash first? I mean she should be compensated. You know?

  15. manyfaces

    Thanks for this. While I can kind of excuse alumni who attended while the mascot was the Indian (since no matter what it is in the future, Stanford will always be the Cardinal to me), the fact that there appears to be a lot of new merchandise is very disturbing. As is the fact that it seems a lot of undergraduates are embracing the Indian.

    This fight went down 40 years ago. I’d have thought we would know better by now.

    1. Maggy

      My alma mater (Miami University) did away with the Redskins mascot when I was a grad student in 1993. Last weekend Miami’s team played at the University of Cincinnati, my current employer. I saw Redskins merchandise when I was marching in the Homecoming parade and it looked contemporary. Many first year students were not even born when the mascot changed. And the University declared that retail outlets should not be selling the Redskins merchandise anymore. I get really tired of people complaining that the school is trying to be PC. To me those complaints translate to, “I don’t like someone calling me on my racist behavior.”

  16. James Winchell

    Noam Chomsky had a great column where he wrote that if the mascot consisted of a “grotesque, caricature Jew” and the team were called “The Yids” (or even the “Fighting Yids”), popular sentiment might see better why Native American mascots are not acceptable.

    1. Jay

      The real kicker is that if there had been a long history of using Jewish people as mascots, people would be defending that too. Most people do not think critically about things they’re used to, they just defend them as “traditional” because they are desensitized to things that should be shocking.

  17. Mike Aul

    Dear God. You’re ridiculous. This is just the type of PC bullshit that this country is going to hell for. No one is taking a personal attack at you for having their team be called the Indians. Stanford is not just YOUR alma mater. I don’t understand how you can really get upset with the class of ’62, who graduated 9 years BEFORE they even changed the mascot. All of those people were Stanford “Indians,” not Cardinal. Are they supposed to just abandon their college mascot because some whiny little princess doesn’t appreciate it? Get a grip….

  18. Scott

    Its unbelievable how this PC culture has become an acceptable avenue for people to force their views on others. You may disagree with those wearing “Indian” materials and logos, but there is no need to force your opinion on them, or shame them into thinking that they are wrong. This type of self-righteous column stymies real conversation by assuming that anyone wearing such material is immediately racist and wrong. Come on down off your high, easily offended horse up there, and go have some conversations with people that don’t see the world the way you do. You might learn something…..

    1. jkuss

      I’m dying to have a conversation with you about how I should feel when someone uses my culture as a caricature. This will be especially helpful since you were not raised in my culture or dealt with the repercussions.

  19. phoenix373

    Thanks for bringing this up. I’ve always found it particularly disturbing when people within the Stanford community (I’m an alum) try to defend ignorant actions like these – especially when every other moment your there they spoon-feed you the “your special and brilliant because you attend this school” jargon. As a Muslim (totally non practicing) there’s a similar “right to offend” argument that is made across the world, and the funny thing is how there’s this laissez-faire attitude about it, when the bottom line is that the basic premise behind caricature of this sort is to cause offense – ironically while I have never been able to grow more than a few whiskers and have never worn a turban, that’s the image I am most represented by as a Muslim – oh and don’t forget some sort of bomb / weapon accessory. You should totally bring it up with Reunion Homecoming Committee and totally bust their balls about this so no one’s wearing that racist crap next year, I feel absolutely no remorse towards asking random ’67 alum to buy another freakin’ shirt – you paid $250+ for reunion already, Stanford can just package in a $20 shirt.

  20. Dave

    You are delusional. Nobody names a team after something that they want to mock/ridicule/disrespect, they name a team after something that they can be proud of. The nickname of a team should be something that represents strength and courage. Nothing represents strength and courage better than Native Americans, therefore the best nicknames/logos in sports are the ones based on Native American imagery (Blackhawks, Chiefs, Braves, etc…). You and people like yourself with your silly PC nonsense are the problem. Stop trying to make something out of nothing. If you don’t like it you don’t have to support it, but don’t try to take it away from those of us who love it.

    1. finette

      Condescendingly telling historically oppressed groups what they may or may not be offended by is never a good look. Perhaps you should learn a bit about this issue yourself? I mean in an actual objective fashion.

    2. Delux

      What these folks are proud of is an imaginary creation based on stereotypes. There are other things out there to love.

  21. Garnet

    I’ve noticed that people who complain about “political correctness” these days are usually just ignorant people who can’t stand being called out on their racism or sexism. The vast majority of the time, where I hear someone start a statement by whining about political correctness, I can know I am about to hear something appallingly ignorant.

    When deciding if a particular mascot is racist or offensive, it should be the people being depicted who decide if it’s racist or offensive. They are the ones who are most affected by it.

    1. Garnet

      ^^This is in response to comments at the bottom criticizing the author of this blog for writing about the use of Indian mascots.

    2. 8mph Ansible

      Everything you said, completely true. Often followed by personal attacks and insults, yet never, if ever, rightly counter arguing the message–if they ever bothered to read/listen to the message.

  22. RJ13

    I have found a great response recently for anytime anyone claims they are “honoring” some culture by appropriating and stereotyping it.

    Them: “No, see, I think their culture is cool so I’m being respectful!”
    Me: “No, see, I think their culture is cool so I’m being respectful!”
    Them: “That’s what I just said…”
    Me: “That’s what I just said…”
    Them: “Are you copying me? Seriously?”
    Me: “Are you copying me? Seriously?”

    After they start getting a little red in the face I then quip with “Imitation is not the most sincere form of flattery, and me mimicking what you are saying in a tone of voice mocking you for my own kicks is pretty much what you are doing to a entire culture.”

    Really, this “imitation is the highest form of flattery” thing is bunk. Considering that we all know the kid doing the echo is not caring about the actual person’s feelings, it’s a fairly good intro to people on how it feels in the “this is a lot less than, but a basic kindergarten level of why this is annoying” way. (Suggestion: only do this with people you know, or you might get punched in the face. Bonus points for mocking tones that stereotype the way they sound to really drive the point home.)

  23. Dina

    for what it’s worth, I shared this on my facebook page. I hope my friends and family read it. Thank you for posting, and continuing to educate us.

  24. Lisa

    It’s not about being PC, it’s about being a decent human being, being thoughtful and inquisitive, and conceding there could well be a highly valid point here. clingling stubbornly to an outdated idea/ false notion points up a certain ignorance, which if a lot of these team boosters were forced to defend, they would be embarrassed by. I feel embarrassed for them frankly.

    I say the people that tell this writer to “get a grip” need to understand they are disrespecting an important and vital segment of the population for the sake of sports. Sports of all things! Kind of laughable really, and a bit boneheaded.

    Replace the mascot, go ahead, free your minds, show that the education you paid so handsome a price for wasn’t just for show, but for making an incremental change that could ease up some of the tensions and hatred that keep people apart in their own damned country.

    Get rid of the mascot. It’ll be cleansing. Do it before the next group of kids come to college. Stanford can be an institution that stands up to this tradition of ignorance.

    1. Sariel

      And this is false. Or do you really think that the mixes in our community do not deserve to be counted as actual Indians? I’ve known people who were half or 3/4ths and could pass as white. Trying to claim that they’re offended because they’re not dark enough is internal group racism.

      These mascots promote the idea that we don’t exist – except for in a mythical past or as the type of savage portrayed in the original animated Peter Pan. I exist – and when I see white kids at the football game with “war paint” on, shaking staffs with dyed chicken feathers, war whooping and getting plastered the last thing I feel is honored or proud of my heritage.

  25. Abby Jensen

    As a member of the Stanford Class of 1975 and a member of the Stanford Band from 1971 to 1975, I am saddened and appalled at the continuing racism by Stanford alum and others. It’s especially galling that the University itself and/or the Stanford Alumni Association are either specifically authorizing the use of the Stanford name and trademark in connection with these images, or knowingly looking the other way, instead of adhering to the promises made in 1972 to stop such usage.

  26. LetsGoSioux

    I guess as a Cherokee you should be upset that the NCAA forced the University of North Dakota to stop using the Fighting Sioux logo which was created by a fellow Cherokee? How can a Native American logo be offensive if a Native American created it? How can it be considered Hostile and Abusive by the NCAA when they were unable to provide one shred of evidence of hostility or abuse any of the times they visited the campus? The NCAA should be more considered with graduate rates of their athletes instead of social engineering. Especially when it is inconsistently applied. If they consider Native American imagery hostile and abusive that should me ALL, not just some. A Native American that is offended by this, which is a small minority, does not care whether or not a school has a financial arrangement with one tribe ala Florida Seminoles.

  27. Tannis

    The Cherokees were screaming for Elizabeth Warren’s blood until Brown said something that made them even more mad. “Professor Warren claimed she was a Native American, a person of color — and as you can see, she is not,” Brown said at the debate. Suddenly the Cherokees forgot about Elizabeth Warren and directed their anger at Brown. “Native Americans are people of color? How can that be? We Cherokees are white as snow.” The Cherokees are a white tribe who have almost completely lost their language, their culture, their religion and even their skin color. And that is exactly why the Cherokees and other white Indians find innocent mascots offensive. Because mascots remind us that Indians have brown skin and dark hair but these white Indians are Caucasian. So these whites with a drop or less of Indian blood protest mascots. This results in a backlash against REAL Indians – for example the sports loving population, which includes most American males, starts resenting Indians. Mascots are not offensive to real Indians. So give up your obsession with mascots. Its destructive. Focus on the real issues that affect real Indians. And here’s a cartoon I found on the internet about this issue:http://ubuntuone.com/7Zsos9bnQ0KOrkn55tOrUf

    1. Adrienne_K

      I just responded to another commenter above with roughly the same critique, if you’re interested. But I will add that saying the Cherokee Nation is “white as snow” and “The Cherokees are a white tribe who have almost completely lost their
      language, their culture, their religion and even their skin color” is completely offensive and ridiculous.

  28. MJ

    Thank you for your blog and the pictures… the university should not sanction and print these sweatshirts, stickers– especially for university sponsored committees. As an alum, I will always root for the Cardinal, not the Indians… When I explain to people WHY we are a color with a tree for a mascot (which is fitting because this tree is on the university crest) I get mixed response. It is always an opportunity for educating ignorance to the old mascot. If they saw the images, they would understand that it is not honoring at all to Native Americans because all of the images are cartoonish and highlighting stereotypes. Yet, in MLB we still have the Braves, which is still strikingly somber since the bravery was in opposition to savage overtaking. The Redskins… still not sure why the NFL allow that… maybe a new NBA team from a major urban US city will start and become the “Blackskins”… uh… I don’t think that’ll happen.

  29. KF

    Thank you for this post, and particularly for your intervention on the Google doc. Unfortunately, the “would you think these images were ok if it were another group” argument requires that people actually find racism against those groups not ok. I was a resident at Okada when a group of frat guys came by and screamed anti-Asian racist abuse at our dorm; I also recall a student’s art installation about Hurricane Katrina being defaced with anti-Black epithets. I’ve seen a lot of musing about “hipster” or “ironic” racism in college environments lately, but there’s still plenty of unironic racism to around as well.

  30. PM

    In every discussion about NA mascots someone always says, “But the Fighting Irish…”

    I would like those people to imagine a British university using the Fighting Irish mascot. Given the violence and oppression waged against Irish people, their religion, language, culture and nationhood–the negative effects of which can still be seen today–during the colonisation of Ireland by Britain, would you still consider it an acceptable mascot for Britain to use to “honor” the Irish? Do you think the Irish would approve of and feel honored by it? Would they want one of their ancient beliefs (the leprechaun) to be reduced to a caricature and depicted as violent by the very people who forced their ancestors into violent action to DEFEND themselves, their families and their land? Would the Irish feel honored by the continued stereotype of being violent, thereby negating the wrongs committed against them?

    With this in mind switch back to Native American mascots. Given the violence and oppression waged against Native American people, their
    religion, culture, language and nationhood–the negative effects of which can still be seen today–during the colonisation of the American continent do you still consider it an acceptable mascot for Non-Native Americans to use to
    “honor” Native Americans? Do you think NA’s would approve of and feel
    honored by it? Would they want one of their ancestors
    to be reduced to a caricature and depicted as violent by the very people who forced
    them into violent action to DEFEND themselves, their families and their
    land? Would the NA’s feel honored by the continued stereotype of being violent, thereby negating the wrongs committed against them?

    Suddenly both mascots look pretty bad, don’t they?

    1. Ian_Campeau

      “Fighting Irish”, “Celtics”, “Vikings” are all cultures, not races. If you identify with any of these cultures, your race is Caucasian. Also, the people who named these teams had roots in the appropriate culture. “Indians” and “Redskins” is compiling over 700 distinct and different cultures into one stereotypical (and offensive) moniker. This is the difference. There are no other races in North America that are exploited in this manner. Why aren’t we afforded the same respect and civil right as all other races in North America?

      1. PM

        Well, combining the Celtic and Norse tribes of Europe into one group is like combining all the South and North American tribes into one group. They were of the same race, but of different many nations. Their language, religion etc might be similar in some aspects, but was often unique to their specific group and area in others. Celtic, like Indian, is a word that covers a lot of groups. Unlike Indian its geographically (or maybe linguistically?) accurate.

        I would say that other nationalities have been grouped together in modern America. Asian Americans are often assumed to be/called Chinese, whether their family immigrated here from China or not. Latino Americans are often assumed to be/called Mexican whether their family immigrated here from Mexico or not. And European Americans and African Americans are thought of/referred to as either white or black. And all of these groups have had or are currently having issues with exploitation, racism and “otherness” (yes, even white people, although that’s mainly been one group of white people subjugating a different group of white people due either to their nationality or economic status).

        However, none of these groups are being made into sports mascots. Unless you want to count Vikings and Celtics etc. but as you pointed out that’s a group using their own identity (bearing in mind not all the players, fans etc will have Celt or Norse ancestry), who is not using a racial slur to name the team, and is not taking on another groups identity (while making it stereotypical) with whom there is a long and ongoing history of oppression.

    2. monkeygrudge

      “the negative effects of which can still be seen today…”

      the reason you can still see the effects is because the war against Natives is still on-going. Adrienne quoted one of her friends:

      ” We would like to be honored by
      being consistently included as a whole racial demographic in social and
      scientific research. We would like to be honored by not being accused of
      taking some other student’s place at Stanford simply because we’re
      Native (even though we’re often accused of not looking Native enough).
      I, and so many others, would be honored if we could – someday soon –
      stop explaining why we are so deeply offended.”

      if these conditions were somehow met, it would because others lost the war against us. the reason most don’t hear about this continuing campaign is because its effects are never reported on, but the propaganda generated against us is real, palpable, and accepted as gospel by the masses.

  31. monkeygrudge

    Thanks for the blog; I’ve been reading it off and on for a while now. I’m glad you’re keeping it up, because i know how disheartening it can all seem. people need to understand that doing good work doesn’t just entail doing the right thing, it means doing the right thing over and over and over…

  32. Kymi Johnson Rutledge

    I just want to take a moment to let you know that greatly appreciate your work. It is very difficult for people to understand how offensive native mascots are. I am an artist and teacher, and am Miami. For me, I have found speaking to groups of educators as an excellent way to educate many people at once. I recently spoke with a large high school here in Omaha. The students did understand the mascot issue. They also understood why it is so terribly offensive to “dress-up” like Indians. With it so close to Halloween, I was worried that my message would be lost. But, it wasn’t. Many students promised to do their part to educate others on both topics. When I am speaking with graduate level teachers, I am able to share resources with them. This blog is one of the resources I share. Thank you again. I know first hand how hard your job is. I get a lot of backlash on Pinterest where I have a board of offensive images. Our world was educated about Native people by Hollywood. We have an upstream battle. I was once told by an Elder, “Never stop. It is going to be very hard, but you can never stop. Too many people just give up.” I carry those words in my heart. I share them with you because they really do give me the strength when I feel like an island. Take care.

  33. Kestrel Marie

    I like your last paragraph; how you remove the potential for guilt regarding previous unthinking and unknowing actions, and then replace it with knowledge and a responsibility to act better in the future or to truly be guilty. I don’t live in the USA so the issues as they relate specifically to Native American peoples don’t apply to my everyday life, but unfortunately there are always opportunities to apply lessons about fighting racism.

  34. Nikita Minter

    I love your blog. I’m a woman of color (mostly black) and work in multimedia and marketing.  What disgusts me the most is that this is still ‘cute’ and ‘acceptable’.  On top of that, there are non-Native PoC who need to know and understand why things like this exist, and why they need to disappear into antiquity alongside the black mammies. This isn’t about being ‘too PC,’ this is about respect.  I also see relying on racial mascots as the laziest thing in the world… kind of creepy too, when I think more on it.

  35. Jaime Jenett

    I just did a bunch of research to find out who to contact re: this.  Talked to Julie Ross in Athletic dept and she, of course, said the items are not sanctioned by the school and that the president knows about it.  I also wrote to the Class of ’62 rep and posted on the Cardinal Club and Class of ’62 FB page.  If you’re comfortable posting Nick’s email, I’d love to give him a piece of my mind 🙂  Fired up and ready to take action!

  36. Julie Ross


    We spoke on the phone this morning and Cardinal Council SAAC is hoping you are going to correct the paragraph above regarding the Cardinal Council T-shirts.  The t-shirts shown in the photograph above have no affiliation with Cardinal Council (Stanford’s SAAC).  Cardinal Council SAAC would appreciate if you would correct this as soon as possible.

    Thank you,

    Julie Ross
    Director for Compliance Services

  37. William Wright

    If Prince Lightfoot were still alive, he would tell you that he was honored to appear at all football games dressed in full Indian regalia. Political correctness put him out of his performances which were voluntary on his part and considered an honor. Get over the political correctness. I graduated in 1955, before oversensity became de rigeur.

    1. Mv Efv Somkv

      And obviously before anyone who wasn’t a white guy, like yourself, were considered to be a real human being that deserves to be treated like a human being too.

      But thanks for paying attention to the conversation occurring anyway. If you ever did.

      ~8mph Ansible

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