Stereotypes of Native Americans and outright racism underscore these athletic team mascots.
The imagery and practices associated with Native mascots further miseducation about indigenous peoples. The use of Native mascots is tied directly to the stereotype of the Demonic Indian - a war-driven, violence-prone warrior who elicits fear. Why else would professional sports teams and schools choose Native images as mascots?
Native mascots also perpetuate another myth about American Indian culture - that Native America is purely historical and devoid of any contemporary relevance. These images hide the fact that Native American cultures are living cultures.
Further, many teams have chosen to create their own imagery to "represent Native cultures" or have taken culturally significant items and practices out of context, thereby distorting them. Barbara Munson, a member of the Oneida Nation and an activist with the Wisconsin Indian Education Association, explains:
"We experience (the use of Native mascots) as no less than a mockery of our cultures. We see objects sacred to us - such as eagle feathers, face painting and traditional dress - being used not in sacred ceremony, or in any cultural setting, but in another culture's game. ...
Yes, we are proud of the warriors who fought to protect our cultures from forced removal and systematic genocide and to preserve our lands from the greed of others. We are proud, and we don't want them demeaned by being "honored" in a sports activity on a playing field."
Do you root for teams that use Native mascots? Do you wear T-shirts, caps or other items that promote these teams? Have you ever thought about what the mascots mean? Why or why not?
Image Source: Fact Source: Barbara Munson, "Not for Sport," and Cornel Pewewardy, "Beyond the 'Wild West,' " Teaching Tolerance (Spring 1999).