10 examples of Indian mascots “honoring” Native peoples

December 8, 2013 — 22 Comments

Sonic drive in MO

Indian mascots, they’re totes honoring to Native peoples, right? That’s what fans always tell us, at least. Inspired by this image above posted on twitter, from a Sonic in Benton, MO, I decided to take some time to compile a list of just a few instances of how these mascots totally “honor” Native people. This is just from memory, btw. There are so, so, so many more.

First up, Trail of Tears references. Background on first image here, and second image here. An old post of mine about the appropriation of “Trail of Tears” by Jezebel and Gawker is here for more info on just how hurtful this is. Remember: Trail of Tears=6000+ Native peoples killed by the US government so white people could have more land (yay manifest destiny! yay Andrew Jackson defying the Supreme Court!). Like I said, totally honoring:

trail_of_tears_banner

dyersburg_indians

Then there were these Cleveland Indians fans. Redface is apparently a totally acceptable way to “honor” Natives:

Wild Card Game - Tampa Bay Rays v Cleveland Indians

This guy with his Indian head on a stick was a repeat offender (top photo from an Eagles-Redsk*ns game, bottom two from Flyers-Blackhawks game). My post on the hockey game is here:

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head1

head2

Don’t worry, you can also literally wipe your ass with an Indian (I had a better example at one point, with Seminole heads printed on each sheet, but alas, can’t find it right now):

$T2eC16VHJHYFFkD42Y2KBRetdjku)!~~60_35

This shirt from U of Illinois (whose mascot was removed in 2007 because it’s offensive) is particularly “honoring”–cause all us Indians totally like to pass out, from all the alcohol we just looove to consume, and we totally worship the Beer Bong as a sacred symbol:

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The original lyrics to the Redsk*ns Fight Song, which weren’t changed until the 1980sBraves on the warpath? scalp ‘em? we take ‘um big score? we want heap more? So respectful of Native peoples. 100%.

Hail to the Redskins!

Hail, victory!

Braves on the warpath!

Fight for Old D.C.!

Scalp ‘em, swamp ‘um

We will take ‘um big score

Read ‘um, Weep ‘um, touchdown

We want heap more

Fight on, fight on, till you have won

Sons of Washington

Rah! Rah! Rah!

 

Trigger warning on this one. This fan-created image (just had to add the brain matter on the arrow. sickening):

deadskin

While we’re at it, another fan-created image to “honor” the team celebrating after a victory. Which might have started with this joke from the Onion, but I saw this posted unironically on FB, with classic “get over it” comments to those who were opposed (can’t find the original link, let me know if you can!):

Logo-Skins-500x500

This whole chat with Suzan Shown Harjo and Redsk*ns fans from 1999. It was supposed to be about the lawsuit and mascot controversy. But of course, it turned into offensive stereotype 101. Choice quotes below:

R-Skin Fan: Are you drunk???

Suzan Shown Harjo: As a political and health decision, I don’t drink at all. Alcohol is a powerful medicine that weakens natural healing medicines, so it’s not a good idea to mix medicines. Thank you for asking.

Jason Sleik: You pay taxes? Give me a break. No, you don’t. How can you come on here and lie like that. Choose the questions you want, but at least answer them truthfully. You might pay taxes, which the tribe pays for you, and the money the tribe gets is from us anyway. So I guess you do pay taxes. All sane people know that’s the case.

Suzan Shown Harjo: Reminds me of a song lyric — he knows a lot of stuff but it’s mostly wrong. Yes, Jason, I pay taxes. No, Jason, I don’t lie or have any person or entity pay my taxes. By the way, sanity and ignorance are very different things.

lil’ indian: Hey, go back to your reserve that we as a country set up for you and chill there!

Suzan Shown Harjo: Reservation comes from the word reserve. Native nations reserved certain lands in treaties …

But, to your overall point — wow. I stand amazed.

 

Like I said, these are just ones I could think of off the top of my head to google. Feel free to post more in the comments, or email me if you have others.

Things to note: These come from both fans of teams with Indian mascots, but also a lot from rivals/opponents of those teams. I’ve said it before, but I think it’s important to bring those images into the discussion. Because as “honoring” as you think you’re being to your mascot, as much “respect” as you think you’re showing (side note: you’re not), you have no control over your opponents. Part of athletic culture is vilifying the other team, creating cheers, images, and slogans that show your superiority over your rivals. But what happens when that opponent is a real, living, group of people? When they’re yelling “F*ck the Redsk*ns!” or “Scalp the Indians!”–how do you think it feels to be a Native person hearing that? Or a Native child going to a sporting event for the first time? Dan Snyder has fond memories of going to Redsk*ns games as a child, but these are the type of memories his beloved team is creating for Native children. How’s that for “respect” and “honoring”?

So yeah. You guys might have noticed that I haven’t written a ton about the Redsk*ns “debate” on here (I do tweet about it a fair amount). In all honesty, it’s because I have a hard time even engaging with the opposition on this. To me, it is SO incredibly obvious that these images (and the Redsk*ns name in particular) don’t promote anything positive for Native peoples, that they’re rooted in white supremacy and superiority, that they’re ongoing symbols of institutional racism and marginalization of Native folks, and the arguments in support of them are so cliched, so repetitive, and so annoying that I don’t like to deal with it.

But don’t take my silence as consent. I hate these mascots with every fiber of my being.

Programming note: I’m on the 8 week countdown to my dissertation draft due date. Hence the silence. I’ve been horrible about emails and FB messages too, I’m sorry. I’ll be back more regularly soon! In the meantime, you can always explore the 300+ posts in the archive, hit up the facebook page, or follow me on twitter

PS- I also know technically this is more than 10 examples, but 10 just worked well for a catchy headline, ok? Listicles are, like, totally the wave of the future.

PPS- I’m moderating the heck out of these comments. I’m not letting any dismissive, hateful, ignorant comments through. Think I should “get over” Indian mascots? Get over your comment not being posted. Don’t you have bigger things to worry about? Ayeee.

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • Kevin1001

    I don’t like the Redskin name but the others are in good taste, Sorry for your Discomfort, but the Seminole nation blessed use of their name by Florida State. I say you need to get over it. The people in red makeup, while not particularly intelligent looking are not trying to demean the native peoples. It is about intent.

    • Adrienne_K

      Yeah, I’m done with that argument too. Intent doesn’t mean anything in this situation. Pretty much every atrocious thing done to Native peoples throughout history was done with good intentions. I’ve also written about the Seminole issue here: http://nativeappropriations.com/2013/01/interest-convergence-fsu-and-the-seminole-tribe-of-florida.html. It’s way more complicated than they’ve “blessed” the name.

      I don’t care if you’re not “looking to demean native peoples”–you are.

      So get over your racism and white supremacy, and I’ll get over Indian mascots.

      I’m also about to start moderating the heck out of these comments too. Any variation of the “get over it” comment will be promptly deleted. It doesn’t add to the conversation, it’s not original, and you just sound like an asshole.

    • http://www.thesearemymoccasins.blogspot.com Mallory Whiteduck

      It’s not about intent; it’s about impact.

    • http://theculturechick.tumblr.com/ TheCultureChick

      Kevin, can you please explain to me how you feel comfortable as a white man telling a Native American individual how they should or should not feel? How they should just get over it? I am honestly curious how you have the guts to say that and how you think you have any authority over how Adrienne should feel.

    • meanneighborlady

      Intent is as much about being intentionally oblivious. Oblivious isn’t about being innocent or ignorant. It is about an intentional privileged decision not to give a damn.

      • Chris Allen

        Bravo!

    • Chris Allen

      You know, Kevin… I’m white, and you make me want to go start a school with a bedsheet covered, hooded mascot. He could tote around chains and a whip, brandishing them at all comers. A sign around his neck could read, “I haz Top Plase!,” or “Hapy I Rulz!” or maybe “Mass-Killr Rappist Theef Seeks New Vic-tums!” We could call them the Rednecks… or maybe the Crackers… or just possibly, the Whiteys.

      Don’t worry—it’s just a tribute to white people… after all, aren’t we Noble?

      Of course, you *might* accept that “all that stuff happened in the past” and therefore, it’s not a slur to reference it to whites now—problem is, there’s a lot the whites in control still do that’s murder, rape, and theft of other races.

      You’re offended by this, by using stereotypes about whites as a team mascot? Who are *you* to decide our intent, and get offended over how our white racist abusing ignorant mascot gets used? Get over it.

      • Chris Allen

        And by the way, I’m not a stereotype. I’m not “mired in guilt over things in the past I didn’t do and can’t change.” My ancestors (and yours, Kevin) did some brutal things. The best way I can do something about that is to learn it, acknowledge it, do what I can to help heal the harm it caused, ensure it’s *never* forgotten, look to see how similar things are being done today and *fight* those things.

        I can become aware of the privileges granted to me because I’m white (no matter what my economic class). I can listen very hard to people of other races trying to teach me how their lives are different from mine, about big and little racisms they’ve grown up under, about injustices they suffer. I can realize that, however well-intentioned, if I try to speak for them instead of allowing them to speak for themselves, I’m de-valuing their voice, I’m subtly clinging to my own power by insisting that I should be their “interpreter” in order to make their message “more palatable” to the whites in power.

        NO ONE is more of an authority on something suffered than the person who suffered it. NO. ONE. Refusal to listen, rejection of their voice as “too angry, to militant, etc.” is yet another way of silencing them, whether they be native or gay or black or asian or women or anyone who’s been and being oppressed.

        Even when they themselves are in disagreement, that doesn’t give you the right to step in and say who is right, to *pick* which message to listen to. That’s like stepping into a stranger’s house at Thanksgiving and putting yourself into the middle of the family argument going on, to the point of literally taping up the mouths of the side you don’t agree with.

        In other words, it’s rude, and it’s an assumption that you have the right to “referee” or even to “decide who gets to speak.”

        I do my best to see people as they are: black human beings, red human beings, brown human beings, yellow human beings, white human beings, female human beings, male human beings. We are all human beings; we are all part of a very large family. At the same time, we have differences that make us unique, interesting, different. We need to embrace the differences, and honor the similarities, and just treat each other as individuals and humans.

        And mascotting a people is the opposite of that: it turns a people into a caricature, perpetuating stereotypes and false information.

  • OklahomaIndian

    This is a great article Adrienne.

    I think one of the biggest problems with having indians as mascots is how opposing teams use the mascot to perpetuate hateful stereotypes and then mask it as being all part of the fun of the game. Some of them aren’t even stereotypes (like the seminoles toilet paper), but since the mascot is associated with real people it’s still very offensive.

    I have always been on the fence about the whole mascot thing, thinking it wasn’t really that big of a deal but I think you really put things into perspective here and I totally agree with you now.

    • OklahomaIndian

      having said this though, I think the best way to communicate with people who disagree with you is to not let your anger get the better of you in the comment section. People are more likely to actually consider your argument if you are nice and don’t attack them!

      I wanted to mention that in my initial comment as a reason why I had trouble siding with you on this subject and decided against it, but after reading your response to Kevin1001 above I think it’s important to point out. We (indians) are all in this fight together! We should change peoples attitudes with diplomacy and grace wherever possible.

      • Adrienne_K

        I respond with diplomacy and grace 99.9% of the time, and you can see through my commenting history that it’s rare that I even jump in the comments at all. But I do think anger has a place–when used strategically. Without anger we can become complacent. As for Kevin1001, when I spend time on a post and literally the first comment is dismissing my words without a second thought, it is incredibly hurtful, and I’m sick of wading through hundreds of variations of his comment everyday. There’s only so much I can take.

        But thank you for your words, and I know we’re in the fight together. :)

  • amitygardens

    This always make me feel super uncomfortable of the high school I went to whose mascot are the Chiefs. Every year a senior gets chosen to be the mascot with their costume consisting of a headdress. I feel like an asshole that I never realized at the time that this is so wrong, and I feel bad about that.

  • http://www.thesearemymoccasins.blogspot.com Mallory Whiteduck

    My Dad is the Buffalo Bills’ biggest fan. Two years ago, I was tailgating at a Bills vs. KC Chiefs game with my parents, my boyfriend and his friend (all of us are Anishinabe). At one point, when I was the only person at our vehicle, a quiet family of KC Chiefs fans came walking down our lane and the Bills fans began to heckle. Among the boos I heard one voice ring out, “We stole your land!” I was glad none of my family and friends were around to hear it. (On the bright side, at least that fan had no preconceived notions of fair treaty relations!)

    On another note, I teach a college class and the image of the speared Indian head really seems to drive home the point for them on how hurtful this can be.

    *cheering* Write, write, write, write… write, write, write! (If it helps, I’m signing this to the tune of “Shots” by Lil Jon!)

  • 10100111001

    Great article!

  • michael watson

    I seem to never cease being surprised and appalled by the racism out there. I know it exists and has dogged my family for generations, but to be confronted by it so directly is shocking. My heart breaks.

  • Terrie_S

    I fully support the new moderation policy. In a recent discussion about Thanksgiving, someone told me that Native people should “Get over” the land issue, because it was so long ago and lots of people were conquered throughout history. And then they insisted they knew what they were talking about because “I was a history major.” Because let’s just ignore the genocide, the denial of US citizenship, the denial of tribal sovereignty, the continuing disenfranchisement, racism, as if it was all about a land issue that happened a couple hundred years ago…. I asked if it was time yet for the Jewish people to “get over” the Holocaust, and they didn’t have much to say.

  • John Eichinger

    People will start to see interpersonal relationships communicate perpetual self-centeredness.

  • gwen saul

    I think I read on one of your previous posts that you are defending your dissertation soon-just wanted to wish you well on wrapping up grad school and thank you for keeping up this blog. Having finished my doctorate this fall, I can say that it feels great to be done and can’t wait to see a “PhD” after your name too!

  • Mike Primeau

    its a different time since that ESPN interview…but the same racist stupiditys only shows the world the delusion of manifest destiny is alive and well…social media is a wonderful thing

  • Merkohl

    Thank you for writing this! I am slowly learning about different -isms and how huge of an impact they have on folks. I had read enough to feel less-than-good about the appropriation inherent in these mascots, but I’d not once thought about the rival team aspect! So, thank you for giving me new thoughts! I hope to remember this point, especially when I have a conversation about this with folks in my life. I’m excited to read more of your writings when school isn’t such a timesuck for me. :)

  • Xanchifich

    I have a question. The high school I went to is on a reservation with most of the students being native. We are the Warriors and Lady Warriors. We do not have a mascot and our logo is the first letter of our school name with a feather with a circle around it. I do find mascots such as redskins and have personally yelled at people in headdress Halloween costumes, etc but when faced with the question of whether or not my school as Warriors being offensive I am torn. I have pride in my team and I am not offended but is that a biased point of view?

  • Stevens R. Miller

    Just found your blog. You have a unique way of making powerful points without (as far as I’ve seen here) implying any dismissive sweeping generalizations. I will be glad to read more from you.