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In Favor Of Banning Native American Nicknames

By Michael Austin, Editor-In-Chief

Two students out of the 348 who attend Rogue River High School (home of the Chieftains) in Oregon classify themselves as “American Indian/Alaska Native.” Ten students use this classification out of the 827 who attend Oregon’s Molalla High (home of the Indians). And, only 35 students use this classification within Roseburg High’s (home of the Indians) total enrollment of 1,824.

With hardly any representation in these schools (as well as 12 others in Oregon), the state Board of Education voted last week to stand up for Native Americans by banning all nicknames, mascots and logos at public schools. As an Oregon resident and someone who goes out of his way not to refer to the Washington NFL team by its mascot name (the Oregonian newspaper agrees and hasn’t used Redskins, Redmen, Indians or Braves in reference to a team since 1992), I applaud the move.

Taking a group of people who have been persecuted, disenfranchised and uprooted throughout their history in this country and making them a mascot for a white-dominated student population isn’t the way to honor Native Americans. In fact, the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots and images from schools in 2005 after research showed these nicknames create an unwelcome and sometimes hostile learning environment for American Indian students, as well as promoting stereotyping against Native American spirituality and culture.

Think about it—when you see a Native American mascot, what is that person wearing or doing? Is that an accurate, 2012 depiction of Native Americans or is it a throwback to the early 1900s when caricatures of minorities were the norm?

This isn’t an issue about teams still using names like Scots, Fighting Irish, Vikings or to the even lazier, sarcastic arguments about standing up for animal rights and banning Ducks, Beavers, Bears, etc. This is a Native American issue. This is about how they feel and how these stereotypes cause psychological harm to their ethnic group. For the vast majority of people against banning these nicknames, it’s not about why you think it’s an honor to have your school nickname be Redskins or Indians. It’s about respected groups such as the National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Education Association both against these mascots.

Yes, it’s going to cost some money to make these changes and school districts are not in the position right now to spend extra funds, which is why the Oregon Department of Education advisory committee made a recommendation in 2006 to do away with Native American mascots. Plus, the affected schools now have an additional five years (until July 2017) to get this done. If the schools took the initial message to heart in 2006, that gives them 11 years to buy new jerseys, redo floors, buy new letterhead and paint walls, which all are things done in the scope of a normal athletic department during that timeframe.

While washing away names and imagery helps move the conversation forward past stereotypes, it doesn’t solve the problem. I hope this ban serves as a springboard to institute more learning about cultures in our schools and not just idle chatter about honoring Native Americans while painting misrepresented, stereotypical heads on gymnasium walls.

For more information on the Oregon ban on Native American mascots, read the full Report to the State Board of Education on this topic by clicking on the PDF on this link: http://www.ode.state.or.us/news/announcements/announcement.aspx?id=8131&typeid=4.


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COMMENTS: 16
Posted from: Mike, 6/7/12 at 9:38 AM CDT
As I said, this isn't about any other group at this point. It's about Native Americans and having several prominent groups in their culture coming out against this.
Fighting Irish
Posted from: Ken, 6/7/12 at 8:29 AM CDT
I will join your fight to get rid of Indian mascots if you include in your crusade getting rid of the Fighting Irish. Everything you say that is insulting about Indian mascots is true about Notre Dames mascot. Really a little leprechaun with a big head, how demeaning. But since it is making fun of white people I am sure your are not as sensitive.
mascots
Posted from: DuWayne Krause, 6/6/12 at 10:19 AM CDT
People can get as mad at me as they want, but the bottom line is that Indian mascots are wrong. People's inability to answer that question I pose tells me that their gut reaction tells them that Indian mascots are wrong.
Posted from: Larry, 6/4/12 at 12:17 PM CDT
DuWayne
I am glad to be known as a Wisconsin bigot. I am against using Indians as a mascot. I am also against using mascots that depict any nationality in a negitive atmosphere. I was in support of two area teams in a change of mascot. My question is what is a mascot good for. I find nothing. I move to get rid of all mascots.
Moral Authority
Posted from: Richard Desiderio, 6/4/12 at 8:42 AM CDT
Aren't we all lucky to have DuWayne around to be the moral authority for the country? Thank you DuWayne for taking the time to be the last word on all mascot matters. We are truly blessed that you take the time to enlighten all of us. I guess we can put the matter to rest, DuWayne has given it a thumbs down.
mascots
Posted from: DuWayne Krause, 6/2/12 at 1:03 PM CDT
And maybe only people from Wisconsin are bigots, but I doubt it. Virtually everyone who says they believe in Indian mascots because they honor them is kidding themselves.
The Fighting Whities
Posted from: Michael Wallace, 6/1/12 at 2:10 PM CDT
DuWayne, maybe folks didn't respond because of how you asked. Anyway, if you Google The Fighting Whities you will learn it is much more than a campus thing and still no one takes offense. To help you make your point I encourage you to visit the Fighting Whities store and purchase a t-shirt or two and a coffee mug. All for a good cause.
Native-American Nicknames
Posted from: Tony, 5/31/12 at 6:58 PM CDT
We knew a lot of coaches were dumb. Now we learn many are bigots as well.
From the world of Oz, Oregon
Posted from: Ron Barkley, 5/30/12 at 9:46 AM CDT
You are way of base on this. My wife is Hawaiian and her HS, for kids of Hawaiian decent are the "Warriors" and she loves it as do everyone I have met from her school. She looks on it as an honor to the brave people who fought any invaders for their islands. A small minority who are offended are looking for something to be offended about.
Mascot names
Posted from: Keith Olson, 5/30/12 at 8:31 AM CDT
Get a life people! In our area we have two schools, one a native school, with native mascots: Indians AND Red Devils. Schools don't need state or federal governments telling them what names are appropriate. That should be up to each individual district. Mind your own business.
mascots
Posted from: DuWayne Krause, 5/30/12 at 7:59 AM CDT
Michael, you cite a good example, but I easily take exception with it. Your example took place on a college campus, not in the general population. The novelty of the name is much, much more likely to be accepted there. I repeat, I never once got a response when I asked what if a tribe team called themselves the white men? Responses varied from being uncomfortable with the question to stunned silence, as if the situation was never considered or couldn't be considered.
Indian Mascots
Posted from: Michael Wallace, 5/29/12 at 10:15 AM CDT
DuWayne,
There is a test case that responds to your comment. Several years ago, American Indians at the University of Northern Colorado named the intramural bball team "The Fighting Whiteys" to make the point you make. However, what they learned was completely different than what they anticipated. The team was overwhelmed by demand for their team jersey. To their credit they took advantage of this opportunity to earn money for various causes.
So based on the data, the answer to your question is, white folks liked a team named after them.
Is it April Fools Day Again?
Posted from: Michael Wallace, 5/24/12 at 9:49 AM CDT
Indian mascots are intended to honor perceived attributes of the American Indian. That the mascot's appearance is not historically accurate is an issue to take up with the particular school, but does not diminish in any way that attempt to honor American Indians. It is exactly the same thing as the Fighting Irish, or the Scots, or the Fighting Princes, or the Pirates or the Vikings btw. Except some American Indians don't like it for personal or political reasons. (Although in the back of my mind I keep thinking it is really trademark and licensing issues.) Like those of us with Scottish or Irish or Scandinavian heritage American Indians are Americans first and it seems silly to me that they do not want to add their heritage to the dozens of other heritages honored by athletic teams.
mascots
Posted from: DuWayne Krause, 5/24/12 at 7:49 AM CDT
Banning those Indian mascots is the right thing to do. Typically it is a dominant white society that wants to keep them. When I lived in Wisconsin and people would speak out in favor of Indian mascots I used to ask them "What would you think if the Lac du Flambeau tribe called their school the white men?" I found it interesting that in all the many times I posed that question I never (I mean never) got a response.
Way Off
Posted from: Richard Desiderio, 5/24/12 at 7:12 AM CDT
Michael, you are woefully off track on this. As a white person who are you to speak for Native Americans? Because one doesn't identify as "Native American doesn't mean that they don't have American Indian in their blood. I am one who does and I honored my heritage with the connection. You are entitled to your opinion as am I.
Window dressing?
Posted from: ATF, 5/24/12 at 5:12 AM CDT
Poverty rates on Indian reservations run upwards of 50%. Alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, depression, and crime are rampant. And this is what we choose to care about? Well-intentioned, to be sure, but seems to me focusing on this aesthetic issue to the exclusion of the real-life ones is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Who cares? Focus on what's important: making these people's lives better.

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