Weighing in on mascot mania
By By Marty Stamper / EMG sports assistant
July 18, 2003
Folks at Ole Miss just think they opened a can of worms by announcing their plan to change the Rebel mascot.
Apparently many Native Americans are tired of schools and professional ballclubs using terms such as Indians, Chiefs, Warriors, Redskins, Savages, Braves, Red Raiders, Choctaws, Seminoles, Apaches, etc. for mascots.
And many of the Native Americans are getting something done about it.
According to http://aistm.org/trailblazers.htm, some 171 schools and pro teams in 34 states from Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, have already given up their "Indian" mascots.
Yet, not all Native Americans have a problem with non-Native Americans using "Indian" mascots. Count Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians seven-term Chief Phillip Martin in that number.
The Choctaw Central Lady Warriors played (and whipped) the West Tallahatchie Lady Choctaws in the 1996 and 1999 state basketball finals.
But other Native Americans are deeply offended. In fact, the "Cyber Hall of Shame" at http://aistm.org/stats.htm lists the top 10 states that use Indian mascots. In order from most offending on down are Ohio, California, Illinois, Texas, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Georgia, and Missouri.
Ironically, Ohio, home of the Cleveland Indians and their goofy, buck-toothed Indian mascot, has no state or federally recognized tribe living in its borders.
Mississippi has at least 22 high schools using Native American mascots, along with two senior colleges and two junior colleges. Alabama has 68, while Louisiana has approximately 65.
The term "redskin," as in the Washington Redskins, is a particularly sore subject.
Holder has Blackfoot, Cherokee, and Choctaw ancestors.
Most times, the selection of the Indian mascot wasn't meant to offend. Often, people say they use the Indian mascots to honor Native Americans.
More and more Native Americans are saying they aren't honored.
Barbara Munson of the Oneida tribe said: "When someone says you are hurting them by your action, if you persist -- then the harm becomes intentional."
If the ones supposedly being honored feel nothing but degradation, pain, shame, and disgust, where is the honor?
Then there's the matter of the cute' run-through signs that Indian mascots invariably lead to. One example which was produced by Brevard (N.C.) High School said, "Devils, Relocate the Warriors." Guess Brevard folks felt a need to remind them of the Cherokee Removal from North Carolina in 1838.
Another example created by Pisgah High School in Canton, N.C., said, "Wipe Out Those Warriors." Anyone for genocide?
Many schools have already changed their Indian mascots. Among the first were Dartmouth College, from Indians to Big Green in 1969, and Stanford University, from Indians to Cardinal (the color not the bird) in 1972.
The University of Oklahoma abandoned its Little Red mascot in 1970. Syracuse University and St. Bonaventure made changes in 1979.
Eastern Michigan University changed from the Hurons to the Eagles in 1991.
Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tenn., is now the Redhawks. They were the Indians.
The New Hampshire State Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution calling for local school districts to stop using American Indian sports mascots.
Oklahoma City University changed from Chiefs to Stars. St. John's went from Redmen to Redstorm. Marquette dropped Warriors to become Golden Eagles.
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board adopted a resolution against discriminatory logos, names, mascots, and nicknames. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction strongly urged all Wisconsin schools using American Indian related mascots to discontinue that practice.
Ten schools in the Dallas, Texas, area changed their Indian mascots. Since 1970, 20 schools in Oregon made a similar decision.
There has been backlash in some places where the Indian mascots were replaced. Voters in Marshall, Mich., and Osseo-Fairchild, Wis., both recalled four school board members who chose to retire their districts' Native American mascots.
There have been success stories as well. The minor league baseball team Canton-Akron (Ohio) Indians became the Aeros and promptly boosted their merchandise sales from $60,000 to $1.2 million, the largest income of any minor league team.