Op-Ed: Native American Stereotyping in Sports Mascots Goes Way Beyond Sports 

Words by: Juliana Cimino

Courtesy of https://archeroracle.org/32504/opinion/oped-nativeamericanmascotry/

The Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted a virtual event on Tuesday, November 30th titled Native American Stereotyping in Sports Mascots. Dr. Javier Marion, Associate Professor of History, hosted the event.  

During the event, he showed the TED Talk, “Walk a mile in my redface — on ending the colonial in culture: Cornel Pewewardy at TEDxUOregon.” The host of the TED Talk gave a presentation to go along with his talk. One slide gave a list of examples of Native American mascots, such as Redskins, Seminoles, Braves, Chiefs, and Indians (all pictured above besides the Seminoles). 

 “Why is this issue important?” was featured on another slide. Pewewardy’s response to this question was, “It’s about raising children today in a non-racist multicultural society.”  

Something else that stood out to me in the TED talk was when the speaker discussed that the typical response to Native American people questioning the mascot is, “But we are honoring you.” Native American people are often offended by the mascots. Some people that go to schools with a mascot that relates to Native Americans in some way do not know anything about the culture and history behind what the mascot stands for.  

Dr. Morian also prepared a presentation that he screen-shared on Zoom. Within the slideshow, he showed this graphic that put things into perspective. 

Where Native Americans Live...and Where High Schools Mascots Reference Them  : r/dataisbeautiful
courtesy of Reuben Fis

He discussed how Native Americans live in the West, but high schools with their mascot named after Native Americans are more concentrated in the East. Only two of the states with the largest percentage of Native American people in their population (Oklahoma and South Dakota) have one of the highest percentages of high schools with Native American mascots. 

Another key part of his presentation was when Dr. Morian talked about Natick, Massachusetts. They were originally called the Natick Redmen and after much debate, became the Natick Redhawks in 2012. Issues persist in a lot of situations where the mascot finally gets changed to something else because people still tend to refer to the team as the old name. This occurred not only in the town of Natick, but also in the National Football League (NFL) with the Washington Redskins who became the Washington Football Team, for example. People will still call them the Redskins without even thinking twice about it, just like people who went to Natick High School still refer to the mascot as the Redhawk. 

Towards the end of his talk, Pewewardy offered some “Strategies for Social Change.” The methods he gave were to have, “Courageous discussions like this one, Use alumni as agents of social change, Collaborate with students, staff, faculty, and community members, Boycott and protest the use of Indian mascots, Voice your opposition to your institution’s administration, and Write editorials to your campus and local newspapers.” Pewewardy and Dr. Morian made great points about why stereotyping in mascots is offensive. 

All in all, there has been a push in the right direction for a lot of high school and professional sports mascots to break away from these mascots, since they ultimately are not ‘honoring’ what they are supposed to in most cases. If we continue to take action and use these strategies given to us in the TED Talk, an even greater change will come about.