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:
Then there were these Cleveland Indians fans. Redface is apparently a totally acceptable way to “honor” Natives:
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:
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):
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:
The original lyrics to the Redsk*ns Fight Song, which weren’t changed until the 1980s. Braves on the warpath? scalp ’em? we take ‘um big score? we want heap more? So respectful of Native peoples. 100%.
Hail to the Redskins!
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):
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!):
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.
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.