Archives For indian mascots

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.

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Chief_Osceola_Renegade

Live and learn. I guess the “quick post” model failed–you should see my inbox. Guys, I know the Seminole Tribe of Florida has worked with FSU and offered their approval of the mascot and associated images. I know quite a bit about the relationship, actually, and I’ve been learning quite a bit more in the last day or so…thanks to the strongly worded responses from some passionate FSU fans.

Quick background:

Florida State has been the “Seminoles” since 1947, and have had a “relationship” with the Seminole Tribe of Florida for many years, but it was solidified more recently. In 2005, the NCAA passed a resolution, calling Native American Mascots “hostile and abusive,” and prohibiting schools with these mascots from hosting post-season events. The Seminole Tribe of Florida then officially gave their permission to use Osceola as the mascot, letting FSU get a waiver from the NCAA rule.

Disclaimer, and a big one–I am not Seminole, and I don’t want to speak for the tribe. I am offering my interpretation and perspective, but it’s just mine. I am going to be up front and say that I don’t agree with the choice to give the university permission to mock Native culture (see the billboard and video I posted earlier), and I don’t find a “stoic” dude in a wig and redface throwing a flaming spear “honoring” (see photo above), and I definitely don’t think that the “war chant” is respectful in any way. In fact I find it quite “hostile and abusive.”

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FSU MBA

Florida State University (home of the “Seminoles”) has unveiled a new billboard for their MBA program. I always wonder how these types of things make it through so many layers of approval. Kirsten who sent it over said this has been their slogan for awhile, apparently. While we’re at it, have you seen the new commercial made by students in FSU’s College of Motion Picture Arts?:

Yeah. “A spirit roams these parts…a spirit of respect.” Respect for who, exactly? 

Programming note: I’m going to be trying something a bit new (or old, if you’re a long-time reader of the blog) where I share a lot of these “random appropriations” in between longer blog posts. I’m not going to go through and deconstruct all of them, it’s more to share the ubiquity of these images and how pervasive they are in our society. But I always welcome conversation in the comments!

(Thanks to Kirstin for the image, and everyone who sent me the commercial!)

 

Dear entitled-full-of-sh*t-not-so-secretly-racist fan of Indian mascots,

I’m pretty sick of your behavior right now. I’ve written a lot of well-reasoned posts about mascots. I’ve provided both appeals to emotion and to science. I’ve shared stories about how people “like you” have changed their minds about Indian mascots. I’ve shared my own experiences about how I, as a Native person, feel when I encounter these images. I’ve been kind-hearted and tried to be understanding. This is not one of those posts.

Because today, I’m mad. Today, Paul Lukas of Uni Watch, who has recently been a big friend to the Native community on the issue of Indian mascots, dared give the Atlanta Braves new racist throwback hat featuring a whooping savage the grade of an “F” in his fictional grading system of the new batting practice hats for the MLB. He dared say:

“Last year the Braves conspicuously avoided using their “screaming Indian” logo as a sleeve patch on their retro alternate jersey — a welcome move for those of us who oppose the appropriation of Native American imagery in sports. Unfortunately, it turns out that the logo hasn’t been permanently mothballed. Disappointing. Grade: F”

Read those vile and fighting words! Clearly he is calling each and every one of you a dirty, stinking racist. Clearly he is saying that you are the scum of the earth and that everything you hold dear is offensive to someone, so you might as well run around naked and live in a hole in the ground to stave off the “PC police” who are coming for you. Yes, by saying that returning to a tired, offensive stereotype of Native people is “disappointing,” that’s clearly what he meant.


Because in the comments, it seems you and your fellow sports fans have lost your damn minds. There are 30 caps in the post, 30 pieces of commentary from Lukas, but somehow, 99.9% of the comments on the article are concerning the Braves cap. You are so original to pretend you are a “pirate” and are offended by the Pirates, or that you are a “communist” and are offended by the Reds. Or Irish, or a Viking, or even more creatively, you’re an elephant who’s offended by the new A’s logo! L.O. effing L. Cause, yep, Indians are just like pirates and Irish and communists and elephants! All those folks are marginalized racial groups who have been historically oppressed and continue to have the highest statistics for poverty, and homelessness, and suicide, and live in third world conditions, while they constantly and repeatedly have their cultures and lives mocked and stereotyped on every corner. Yep! The welfare lines are just full of elephants this time of year.

And I’m so glad there are people like your friend “chrohandhaivey” who can tell me what I should be honored by and how “fierce” I “was”:

Im tired of this native american racist crap…$@%! you should be honored your race is a team mascot…thats a good thing…it shows how fierce you were to be used as a sports team….its not like its the n****rs or something i mean come on…personally i wish there was an Atlanta team named the “White People”…Id rock the $@%! out of that with pride not complain about it like some puddins

Or your friend “canigs013″ who gave us a backhanded compliment by saying we’re “too smart” to care about mascots:

for real. has anyone actually heard a native american complain about things like that? no, because they’re too smart to care about dumb things that do not matter.

Nope, “canigs013,” you’re right. I’ve never heard of a Native American complain about Indian mascots. Nope, there’s not a supreme court case, or millions of news articles, or decades and decades of activism against the cause. Nope.

But I’m stoked that one of your other friends brought up the infamous Sports Illustrated poll that shows that 80% of Native Americans support Indian mascots. A poll from 2002. Here are 20 other things that were popular in 2002, and I don’t think you’d care to argue their relevance today. Though, who knows, maybe you are rockin’ your CD’s on your walkman right now while fearing a boyband anthrax attack. There are also a million other things wrong with that poll, including the fact that they won’t release their polling sample or how they determined who to interview. Read this article to hear all the ways that poll is ridiculous and shouldn’t be used in an argument a decade later. A decade later. 

I really wonder if you know how you sound. Your arguments are tired, are weak, and are getting more eye-roll worthy by the day. How long will you stand by the argument that “PC culture” is ruining “your” America? I’d like to share this awesome quote by Dion Beary that sums up your thought process perfectly for me:

Politically correct” is just a term assholes came up with so they can dismiss people who have the nerve to want to be respected. Demanding not to be stereotyped is not political correctness, it’s a human right, and you are not some hero for refusing to respect people’s right to be treated like humans.

I am a real person. Hi. I am a modern Indian who likes sports and doesn’t want to take away “your” beloved francise. But the images aren’t yours to keep. They’re representations of me, and my people, and my ancestors, and I should have the right to control them. And you see, the thing is, times change. While maybe at one time (though I’m gonna stand by the fact that it’s never been acceptable) these images were deemed “A-ok,” we’re not in that time anymore. In the not-so-distant past, folks were lamenting the loss of the minstrel show as a lovely form of family entertainment, or demanding that black folks use separate water fountains. Which side of the fight do you really want to be on?

You might think “PC lefties” (actual term in the comments) expend too much energy fighting mascots when they “don’t matter”–but, in all honesty, I can’t believe how quickly and ferociously you jump in to decry the “oversensitivity” of Native folks. You’re sure acting pretty “sensitive” at the thought of losing your mascot for someone who thinks mascots don’t matter. I’m just saying. Did someone touch a nerve?

So really, Really think about what you’re defending. You’re defending your “right” to don a stereotypical and offensive caricature of a Native person. A caricature that I know you look at and feel in your gut is wrong. You’re attacking a reporter who dared call the look “disappointing.” You’re showing your insecurities and your roots, and they’re really not pretty.

I want you to take a deep breath, cause there’s some major smoke coming out of your keyboard right now. Take a deep breath and think about it. Call me overly sensitive, tell me I don’t represent “real Indians,” tell me that I’m being “PC” or “a left wing nut,” but I know, and I’m pretty sure deep down in that sports-loving-heart even you know, that maybe I’m right.

-Adrienne K.

PS-I know not all of you are like this. I know that a lot of you do take the time to think, and a lot of you will and have realized that it’s time to abolish Indian mascots once and for all. I know that you love your teams, and that the Indian images have been a part of your families and lives for generations.  I know that you don’t mean any harm. But I’m confident that when you open up your minds to hear the other side, you’ll realize that it’s time. Native people deserve better than to be memorialized or “honored” by stereotypes on a MLB cap.
(So much for not being kind-hearted and understanding. Damn. Blame my new friend who’s a lifelong fan of that-team-in-Washington, though I’m pretty sure I’ve changed his mind at this point…)

The article that started it all:

ESPN: First Look: New MLB Batting Practice Caps

Earlier:
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

(Thanks Doug, Chris, Tessa, and everyone else who sent this over!)

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
To: 
Subject: STANFORD INDIAN SWEATER
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.

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!)

Welcome to Harvard, where we show extreme insensitivity toward members of our community in the name of humor! Tonight, members of the Harvard Lampoon, a student-run humor magazine that’s been around since 1876, will be playing a game of basketball against the Harlem Globetrotters. The name the hilarious Lampoon-ites have chosen for their team? The Lampoon Indians.

The screenshot above is an email sent out to members of the undergrad community on Saturday, advertising tonight’s game. We all know how I feel about the use of Indian Mascots in any capacity, and to some, this might seem like a minor battle and not worth it. But this event is taking place a block away from where I am sitting this very moment, and this, to me, is just another instance demonstrating how marginalized Native students are at Harvard.

My guess is the Lampoon chose the “Indians” to “honor” Harvard’s past. Little known fact, but way back in the day, Harvard had an “Indian College” that was built for the express purpose of educating (and christianizing) young men from the local Native communities. It was also built cause the university was in a whole lotta financial trouble, and they knew that if they built the Indian College they could get cash money from the local missionary societies that so badly wanted to “save” the local “savages.” True story.  In the 1650 founding charter of the University, it even states the purpose of the university is “the education of the English & Indian Youth of this Country in knowledge: and godliness.”

Today, in 2012, there is a solid Native community at Harvard and a Native program that supports students, but Native people still nearly invisible on campus and in the classroom. There are repeated instances of ignorance towards Natives at Harvard, some of which I’ve chronicled on the blog. I wrote about the Harvard chapter of Sigma Chi’s “Conquistabros and Navajos” party, which to their credit, they apologized for, and my “Open Letter to Pocahotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween” was inspired by a conversation with Harvard undergrads. I’ve also shared some of my experiences in the classroom and the cafeteria. I have come to realize just how accepted and normalized these instances are in this community–as they are in most of the US and Canada–and that’s simply unacceptable.

So back to the Lampoon. This is actually the second time they’ve donned the “Lampoon Indians” name, the first was in October 2011, when they played the Boston Bruins in a game of dodgeball (and got their asses kicked). In two minutes of perusing the Harvard Lampoon website, I found a couple of instances of outright disrespect towards Native people, which doesn’t help their case if they decide to stick to the argument of “honoring” Native people. Remember friends, lighten up, cause these are supposed to be funny.

Instance #1: A piece entitled “A Guide for the Freshmen of This College, 1670 by JBO, ’10.” Please direct your attention to rule number 4, emphasis mine:

4. No freshman shall wear his hat in the College yard except when it rains, snows, or hails, or if he be on horseback and hath both hands full with corn, sow feed, or the like, or if he be whipping of his Indian. 

OMG SO MANY LULZ!!!!

Instance #2: This whole story. I don’t really get it. Though I’m just a dumb Indian, so what do I know? But I know the punchline is that they “kicked the crap” out of a “Cherokee Priest.” Again, LOL!

This is where we get into a supposed conundrum-of-sorts. But where do we draw the line with humor? It’s satire, it’s supposed to be subversive and borderline offensive! Lighten up, it’s just a joke! No one is safe from the jabs of the Lampoon, they’re equal opportunity humorists! But the thing is, they’re not. At least on their website, no other racial or ethnic group is mentioned in such a “satirical” way in their published stories. Just Indians.

So what does this have to do with the Lampoon calling themselves “Indians” tonight? It establishes a pattern. A pattern of “jokes” that I don’t find funny.

So here’s the letter I’ll be sending them, along with a link to this post. The letter is admittedly not my most impassioned or well-reasoned, but I’m tired guys. It makes me so sad that this is how my fellow community members perceive me. If you’re in the area tonight at 5pm, feel free to come by the game and tell them what you think.

Dear members of the Harvard Lampoon, 

It has come to my attention that you have decided to use the team name “Lampoon Indians” tonight as you take on the Harlem Globetrotters. As a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and more importantly, a member of the Harvard community, I am respectfully asking you to change the name of your team for this evening. 

I do not find the use of “Indian” as a mascot to be honoring of my culture or my community, in fact, I find the equating of my culture with animals or mythical creatures to be downright insulting. I have no idea if you plan to “dress up” as Indians or use any type of Native imagery to represent your team tonight, but the name in itself is bad enough.  

I write a blog called Native Appropriations, where I examine representations of Native peoples in mass media and pop culture. I’ve written about the mascot issue many times, but most recently have covered the “Fighting Sioux” controversy here and here. I would encourage you to read those posts if you are still unsure of where you stand on the issue, or this post, written by a non-Native, which takes my arguments even further. I don’t feel the need to re-argue those points here. The bottom line is that the use of Indian mascots stereotypes, demeans, and marginalizes Indigenous peoples, and has real effects on the psychological well being of Native students and community members.  

To me, this is not an issue of humor or history, it is an issue of basic human decency. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, and trust that you didn’t mean to be offensive, but the intent of your choice and actions doesn’t negate the impact these instances have on the well being of Native people in the Harvard community and beyond. I trust you’ll make the right choice and change your team name for this evening. There are any number of names you can take that would give a nod to your Harvard roots while being actually funny, without marginalizing an entire race of people in the US. 

I have also posted this letter on my blog, with more background information about the Lampoon and other instances of disrespect towards Natives on Harvard campus.  

Best,
Adrienne K. 

UPDATE 4/2: They apologized, and didn’t even use the Indians name! I’m so used to my posts going off into the abyss or responses of anger/defensiveness, I stared at the email for a good minute or so before it sunk in. I seriously applaud their reaction , and we’re going to set up a time to meet soon so we can chat more. It’s a pretty great and all-too-rare feeling when things actually work out, isn’t it? Their email is below:

Hi Adrienne,

Per your request, we decided not to use the team name Lampoon Indians. You were right: it wasn’t us at our funniest. You were also right in that we did not mean to insult anyone. I apologize for any offense we caused you or any Native-American members of the Harvard community.  

I would love the chance to talk to you more in depth about this. If you would like to have a dialogue, please feel free to call me at xxxxxx. Again, our apologies. 


Sincerely,

Native Appropriations: The Fighting Sioux Are Back: My Passionate Plea against Indian Mascots 
Native Appropriations: Indian Mascots Part 2: The Science

Harvard Lampoon: History/About 
Harvard Lampoon: A Guide for the Freshmen of This College, 1670 by JBO, ’10
Harvard Lampoon: Pet Cemetery by CAS ’12

As of last Wednesday, University of North Dakota (UND) has reinstated their use of the “Fighting Sioux” mascot, which was banned last year. Residents of the state gathered over 17,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot in the upcoming elections, and the UND administration says that they wanted to show that they “honor the refrendum process” by reinstating the mascot.

I, of course, think this is messed up beyond belief. Not only does this put UND in risk of violating NCAA rules that won’t allow post-season games at schools with Indian mascots, it sends a huge “eff you” to everyone in the Native (and ally) community who worked their butts off to get the mascot removed in the first place.

So, because my mascot posts tend to draw mascot defenders from the dregs of the internets, let me refute your claims right off the bat (excuse me as I plagiarize my own hipster headdress manifesto):

But mascots are HONORING the bravery and fierceness of Indians! 
No. They’re not. Honoring someone does not consist of taking their culture, reducing it to a one-dimensional racist stereotype, and representing them however you see fit. It’s about power and who has the right to represent whom. Also, this cartoon helps. I don’t consider a dude in warpaint and feathers making a mockery of my culture honoring. At all. Also, not all Indians are “fierce” and “brave,” just like not all white (or Black or Latino) people are ““.

I’m Irish (Norwegian, Catholic) and don’t get offended by the Fighting Irish (Vikings, Padres)!
That’s because there is not an active system of colonialism and oppression marginalizing the Irish, “Vikings”, or Catholics in our country. Native peoples are still living under colonial rule–take a look at stats from any area of society, and you’ll see Native people at the bottom. I’m sorry if you feel “oppressed” as a catholic or a viking–but you still have a helluva lot of white privilege that kinda negates it. Sorry.

What’s next, animal rights activists telling us we can’t use ANIMALS as mascots?! Where does it end?!
Yeah, cause Native people (PEOPLE) are on the same level as animals? Thanks buddy. Thanks a lot.

What about the Wizards? Pirates? Cowboys? 
Um, mythical beings or occupations are not the same as an entire race of people.

But tribal members support the mascot! So it’s ok!
No. It isn’t. Hitler was a white guy. Can I then deduce that all white men think it’s ok to murder millions of people? And don’t cite that stupid Sports Illustrated poll that says 90% of Indians support mascots. That thing has so many issues with sampling and validity it’s not even funny. Yeah, a few tribal members might support the mascot. But it’s a sad commentary on how invisible we are in society, because most of them cite the fact that they feel “proud” to be “recognized” and “remembered”. If the only way Native peoples are viewed in the US are as racist stereotypical mascots, (or in movies, tv, and advertising) is it better to be invisible, or seen as a stereotype?

Don’t you have BIGGER issues to worry about? Like poverty and alcoholism?!
Yeah, we do. But most people, because they’re so inundated with these images all. the. time. don’t have the wherewithal to realize that Native peoples exist in contemporary society. The collective American consciousness has reduced us to a easily-digestible stereotype, and in that act, erased our ongoing struggles. In order for us to move forward as a people, we need to acknowledge and interrogate these stereotypes, so we can move past them. The two go hand-in-hand.

 But the Fighting Sioux image is a “good” image. It’s not blatantly racist like the Cleveland Indians!
Well thank you for that transition, it’s almost like you planned it! Get ready for some science (SCIENCE!). 

It got too long, so read Part 2 (the scientific proof) here: Fighting Sioux Part II: The Science

Earlier:
Thanks for the severed head, you proved my point

A Reminder of why this blog exists: One reader’s story

Stilwell High School’s New Mascot: Tommy Tomahawk

OMG so much to talk about!

February 10, 2012 — 7 Comments

Hey Guys,
I have been so impressed (saddened? angered?) by all of your “Week in the Life of a Stereotypical Indian” submissions, that I’ve been culling through them all for the last week or so. I promise a post next week breaking it all down–but in order to do that, I’d love some of your reflections about what the experience was like for you. Send me an email, or comment below. Here are some vague guiding questions, but feel free to just tell me how it went, how it felt, etc:

  • What was it like mentally (or otherwise) cataloging all these daily micro-aggressions? Did you talk to anyone about what you were doing? Did it feel empowering? Disheartening? What surprised you about the images you saw? or did you find what you expected?

Moving on, here are some of the other Native stories I’ve been following around the internetz/things I’ve been up to:

  • A 7th grade girl in Wisconsin was suspended for using Menominee language in the classroom. Flashback to government-run boarding schools, anyone? So upsetting. They said she had an “attitude problem” for saying “hello” and “I love you” in her language. Ketapanen, Miranda–we support you!
  • Looks like the “Fighting Sioux” are back–at least temporarily. Expect a longer post about this soon. Residents of ND gathered enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for the upcoming elections, and that act reversed the law that had forced UND to remove the mascot in the first place. Newsflash: We are not mascots. Mascots are dehumanizing, racist, and wrong. When will it end??
  • I found this blog post from last January that is so bad it reads like a parody. Really. Head over for a whole slew of white women in hipster headdresses. Here’s an excerpt:
Indians (…which i’m sure is not the politically correct thing to call them…but sounds WAY cooler than Native Americans…lol) are the TRUE Americans!  Thanksgiving is one of my least favorite holidays b/c for me it’s a celebration of us basically robbing the Indians blind!  I don’t want to be a negative Nancy…so what I can say is that Indians and their wardrobes are SUPER CHIC!  I want to be a high chief…and have the BIGGEST feather head piece…I would be a GREAT head chief…lol!
ps. I think living in a Tee Pee would be fun!!!  Mine would be hot pink  : )

  • Samantha Crain came to Boston, and I convinced a bunch of my friends to go to her show. It was super awesome, especially since the venue held only 20-30 people, which was great. If you haven’t listened to her stuff, definitely check it out. She’s also happens to be Choctaw from Shawnee, OK (if you were wondering about the Native connection). Here we are in an awkward picture after the show (I’m 5’10 and in heels, she’s probably 5’0(?), so I’m bent in half):
  • Here are some “Navajo” band-aids with “3 Aztec Designs.” From Australia. You’re welcome. 

  • Last, but not least, I’m thinking of making some shirts for the blog (omg, I know, right?). We’ve had a hearty convo over on Facebook and Twitter about ideas, but I wanted to open up the thread here as well. If we were to make some Native Appropriations shirts, what would they look like? What would you want on them?

Thanks, as always, for your support, tips, and “likes”, I am grateful everyday for the amazingness that is the Native Approps community. If you are ever feeling lonely in between posts, I post a lot over on Facebook and Twitter, and would love to have you join the conversation.

Much Love,

Adrienne K.

I just came back from an amazing long weekend in the Bay Area, where I was at a training to be on my reunion homecoming committee (5th year reunion! I’m either really old or really young, depending on your perspective). I seriously love my alma mater more than is probably healthy. But this is a place that I credit with the development of my activist and social-justice oriented frame of mind, and also credit my work in admissions after graduation with opening my eyes to the disparities in higher ed for Native students–which is now my research in grad school. In many ways, it could be seen as ironic that the place that supported and nurtured my Native identity and allowed me to major in Native American Studies/Critical Studies of Race and Ethnicity has a past that includes that image above.

That shirt in the picture came from a thrift store in San Diego years ago, where I paid $15 for it. Fifteen dollars. For an old tshirt. But I bought it because I couldn’t bear the thought of someone else picking it up, finding it “cool” and “vintage” and strutting around town in it. So I bought it, and then gave it to the Assistant Director of the Native program at Stanford, because I didn’t want it lying around my house. I imagined it like the Tell-Tale Heart…beating in my drawer…::shudder::

This past weekend when I was on campus, I stopped by her office and saw it sticking out of a drawer. I pulled it out, we laughed about it, and talked about ways it could be used in an educational exhibit of some sort, and how it’s important to remember the mascot’s history.

The quick version of that history, from the Stanford Native Center website:

In February of 1972, 55 Native American students and staff at Stanford presented a petition to the University Ombudsperson who, in turn, presented it to President Lyman.  The 1972 petition urged that “the use of the Indian symbol be permanently discontinued”–and further urged that the University “fulfill its promise to the students of its Native American Program by improving and supporting the program and thereby making its promise to improve Native American education a reality.”  The petition further stated that the Stanford community was not sensitive to the humanity of Native Americans, that the lack of understanding displayed by the name of a race being placed on its entertainment, and that a race of humans cannot be entertainment.  The mascot in all its manifestations was, the Indian group maintained, stereotypical, offensive, and a mockery of Indian cultures.  The group suggested that the “University would be renouncing a grotesque ignorance that it has previously condoned” by removing the Indian as Stanford’s symbol, and by “retracting its misuse of the Indian symbol” Stanford would be displaying a “readily progressive concern for the American Indians of the United States.”

Later that year, the University removed the mascot. I love that the mascot issue was born out of Native student activism on campus. Read the rest of the history here on the NACC website. 

So after I left the Native program offices, I walked over to the Alumni Center for my training. As I was flipping through the packet they gave us, I found this, The “Policy Regarding American Indian Images”:

Apologies for the cell phone picture. But basically it sends a big stfu to any old alums who want to pull out their feathers and face paint for their reunion homecoming publicity or mailings. From the policy:

“We acknowledge that such imagery was not meant to be offensive when adopted. However, 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.”

lululu’s to that. I was so happy to see this in the packet–and I as I sat there at the table in the alumni center, it made me think about all the Native students who had come before me and who worked so hard to get rid of the mascot. As the only Native on any of the reunion committees this year, I hope I’m making them proud.

Stanford still has a LONG way to go in making the campus climate a completely safe and supportive environment for Native students, and definitely needs work in supporting the ethnic community centers and staff, but personally I find it awesome that there is at least some explicit institutional support around the contentious mascot issue, especially when sending out those mailings with the Indian on them to old alums would probably bring in some more donations to the university.

I’m the first to admit that I’ve completely and totally drank the Stanford kool-aid (but it’s so tasty and full of palm trees!), so if anyone has differing opinions on how the administration has dealt with the mascot issue over the years (and it continues to be an issue, believe me)–definitely send me an email.

I’m also curious how other institutions with an Indian mascot past deal with their alums and images, if you’ve got stories, share them in the comments!

(Thanks Miss Denni!)

PS–Also, a while back I shared one Stanford Alum’s story about how reading Native Approps changed his mind about Indian Mascots. It’s worth a read if you’re somehow still on the fence.