Archives For 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.”

Continue Reading…

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

Part II:
So, still unconvinced after my Part I emotional plea? You can refute my “feelings” all you want. But how about a real, peer-reviewed scientific study? You can’t mess with a one-two punch of emotions AND science, right?

In a 2008 study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology, Dr. Stephanie Fryburg (Stanford Almuna and one of my professor idols) took the mascot issue head-on. The paper can be read, in full, here.

Her article, “Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots”, consisted of 4 studies, using Native youth from an Arizona reservation as her subjects.

Study 1: Students are given images of Pocahontas, Chief Wahoo, and a list of negative stereotypes. Afterward, they are asked to generate a list of word associations. For Pocahontas and Chief Wahoo, ~80% of their word associations were positive. (I know, that’s backwards, right?) for the negative stereotype list, only ~8% were positive (about what you’d expect). But before you get on my case about proving mascots aren’t bad…

Study 2: Students are primed with the same images or stereotypes list, but instead of word association, their self-esteem is measured. Students show depressed self-esteem in all 3 conditions, and their self-esteem was lower in the image conditions, versus the list. This means that even when the students are saying the mascots aren’t bothering them, or they are associating positive things with them, they are still exhibiting depressed self-esteem. Whoa.

Study 3: The same procedure as 1&2 was followed, but students were asked about community worth at the end of the conditions (“I respect people in my community”). Students primed with the images and the stereotypes exhibited decreased feelings of community worth, following the same pattern as above. So looking at a mascot makes students de-value their community.

Then, the kicker:

Study 4: College students were shown images of Chief Wahoo (“bad image”), Chief Illiniwek, and the Haskell Indian Nations University Indian (“good” images), as well as an image from AIGC’s campaign (an actual good image), and then asked to generate “possible selves”–looking forward to the future and how they see themselves. Those primed with the mascot images (even the good ones), generated far less acheivement-related possible selves than those with the control or AIGC image. Basically, looking at a mascot limits the way Native students see themselves succeeding.

…and a horrible follow-up, Fryburg did another study that compared white students, and in all the areas where Native students’ self esteem, community worth, and possible selves went down, white students went up. No active oppression in American society, right? White students directly benefit from racism against Native students.

In sum: Scientific research shows that mascots and Indian stereotypes, regardless of if they are “good” images (Pocahontas, The Fighting Sioux) or “bad” images (Chief Wahoo), they cause depressed self esteem, decreased community worth, and decreased possible selves–even when students say the images don’t bother them. And images are worse than words.

So still want to tell me how the Fighting Sioux are no big deal and I should get over it?

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

This guy comes to us from reader Chris, who spotted a Trans-Bridge bus sporting the logo in Pennsylvania. The “about us” portion of their website gives this background on the logo:

In case you can’t read it, the text says:

“If you have ever driven behind a Trans-Bridge Lines’ bus, then you must have seen painted on the rear window, a picture of HI-YO in all his splendor. HI-YO, an Indian Chief, has been adopted as the mascot of Trans-Bridge Lines. He is also the Mascot of the Fugowees Jazz Club founded in 1962, who gave Trans-Bridge permission to use Hi-Yo over 25 years ago. And so it is said, Trans-Bridge drivers are never lost, as long as they have Chief HI-YO to guide them.”

So, we’ve got the stereotypical “Indian Guide”–wearing a feather, loincloth, and mocassins, of course–who, like all Indians (right?) has natural and expert abilities of navigation and tracking. And his name is HI-YO. Sigh.

And that “Fugowees Jazz Club” seems like a winner too–in addition to using “Hi-Yo” as their mascot, the leader goes by the title of “Chief” and name “Big Red,” and apparently they didn’t let women in the club until 1997. Awesome. (All that info was in this article)

So Trans-Bridge Bus lines, I re-wrote your “Fun Fact” for you:

If you have ever driven behind a Trans-Bridge Lines’ bus, then you must have seen painted on the rear window, a picture of a hurtful, stereotypical “Indian Chief” who we have named “Hi-Yo”, because we think that all Indians have strange, nonsensical, syllabic names. HI-YO has been adopted as the mascot of Trans-Bridge Lines, because we all know that Indians make great mascots, since they aren’t real people, don’t exist anymore, and are just like animals. He is also the Mascot of the Fugowees Jazz Club founded in 1962, who are a misogynist and racist club, but don’t worry, they gave us permission to use the image (though we didn’t think to talk to any actual Indians, lol!). And so it is said, Trans-Bridge drivers are never lost, as long as they can look through their rear-view mirror and see this awesome image that forces all drivers on the road to forget that Indians actually exist, and think of them only as cartoons and mascots! 

Oh, and don’t give me the “honoring” argument. That cartoon character is in no way an honor, I don’t want to be associated with a half-naked cartoon on the back of a bus, thanks. Just because it’s a “positive” image doesn’t mean it’s any less hurtful or harmful.

 (Thanks Chris!)

Game 4. Philly Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers score a goal, and VERSUS tv shows this guy. This guy, holding an impaled, severed, Indian head. On national tv. Close up on his prop:

So disturbing, so graphic, and just what I wanted to wake up to on a Saturday morning. Truly sickening in the literal sense.

This proves it, without a doubt. Native American mascots are demeaning, stereotyping, and harmful to Native people. The Blackhawks logo is often touted as a “good” image–not evil or stupid looking, nothing like chief wahoo or the other blatantly racist images. But “good” image or not (and I still stand that no Indian mascot is a good mascot), clearly this demonstrates the danger when fans are given control over a mascot and image. There is no excuse for this man’s actions.

That’s one area mascot debates rarely cover–the actions of rival team’s fans and how they affect Native people. When an entire arena is shouting things like “Beat the Indians!” “Scalp the Redskins!” “F*@! the Blackhawks!” Can you imagine how it would feel to be a Native person hearing those things?

Even more upsetting about this image is the American history behind beheadings and scalpings of American Indians at the hands of whites. Into the late 1800′s, the california government offered bounties of 5 dollars per Indian head brought into city hall. The heads of great Indian leaders were kept as souvenirs by the US military, or strung up in trees or on posts to serve as a warning to other Indians who dare disobey. Scalping, a practice commonly associated with blood-thirsty Indians, was actually more widely used by the European settlers, and bounties were offered for Indian scalps as well. This proclamation from 1775 calls for scalps from Native men, women, and children–offering different rewards for each.

That’s why this makes me even more sick to my stomach.

We could also talk about how the TV station decided it was ok to air the image of this man, multiple times, or how the security at the arena let him through with that spear, and what those actions say about our society, or, per usual, draw the comparisons to other groups. Would a tv station air an image of a man carrying around an impaled Black head? Asian? Latino? No.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about the Chicago Blackhawks, I’m assuming because of all the publicity with the Stanly Cup. A couple of people sent over this image:

Apparently the Chicago Tribune puts feathers on the homepage every time the team has a game. The feathers are pulled from the Blackhawks logo itself:

There have also been a few editorials circulating about the logo, and if it’s time for a change. This one, from the Star, is pretty spot on. I talked a little bit about the danger of mascots and the psychological implications for Native students in this post about Tommy Tomahawk at Stilwell HS in OK. I recommend a read of Stephanie Fryburg’s work I link to in that post.

And of course, the offensive and hurtful behavior isn’t just limited to the fans of the other team. Check these guys out:

 (image source)

I guess even die-hard hockey fans can fall under the anti-hipster headdress manifesto.

So, overall, I guess I can–in a twisted and sick way–thank that Flyers fan. Anytime anyone says there is no harm in Indian mascots, I’m sending them that picture.

Offensive Logo has got to go: http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/815709–cox-offensive-blackhawks-logo-has-got-to-go

Flyers Fan celebrates with Impaled Head: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Flyers-fan-celebrates-goal-with-impaled-Indian-h?urn=nhl,245889

Original pictures of the fan are from The Starter Wife: http://blackandgoldtchotchkes.com/

Earlier:

Meet Stilwell HS’s new Mascot: Tommy Tomahawk- http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/stilwell-high-schools-new-mascot.html

Tommy Tomahawk Update: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/tommy-tomahawk-update-school-board.html