7 août 2008 4 07 /08 /août /2008 21:16



Charlene Teters, Spokane

On the verge of the millenium, Indian people are still involved in what Michael Haney has described as the longest undeclared war against the American Indian, here in our own homeland. This war, no longer on battlefields is now being fought in the courtrooms, corporation boardrooms, and classrooms over the appropriation of Native American names, spiritual and cultural symbols by professional sports, Hollywood, schools, and universities. The issue for us is the right to self identification and self determination this is the fight of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media.

The American Indian community for 50 years has worked to banish images and names like Cleveland's chief wahoo, Washington redskins, Kansas City chiefs, Atlanta braves. We work to remind people of consciousness of the use of the symbols resemblance to other historic, racist images of the past. Chief wahoo offends Indian people the same way that little black sambo offended African Americans and the frito bandito offended the Hispanic community and should have offended all of us. It assaults the principle of justice.

Last year during the media hype that surrounded the baseball playoff games between New York and Cleveland, the New York Post caught up in the hype covered its front page with the headline, "Take the Tribe and Scalp 'Em." Little concern was shown for the Indian children, or community living in New York City, or around the country. The American public has been conditioned by sports industry, educational institutions, and the media to trivialize Indigenous culture as common and harmless entertainment. On high school and college campuses Native American students do not feel welcome if the school uses as its mascot (not a clown, a mythical creature, or an animal) a Chief, the highest political position you can attain in our society. Using our names, likeness and religious symbols to excite the crowd does not feel like honor or respect, it is hurtful and confusing to our young people. To reduce the victims of genocide to a mascot is unthinking, at least, and immoral at worst. An educational institution's mission is to educate, not mis-educate, and to alleviate the ignorance behind racist stereotypes, not perpetuate them and to provide a nondiscriminatory environment for all its students, conducive to learning.

Student leadership has played a significant role in bringing the mascot issue forward. In the 1970's students at Stanford and Dartmouth were successful in changing the athletic identity from Indians to a race-neutral name and symbol. Since 1988, the student-led struggle to retire the dancing Indian mascot/symbol at the University of Illinois continues with little chance of change against an arrogant and entrenched governor-appointed Board of Trustees.

Still, in recent years, significant contributions to this movement to eradicate racist mascots have been made. At least six Universities have changed their names, the Los Angeles Board of Education voted to ban Indian images and names. In schools across the country the mascot issues is being debated and these debates are being led by young Native people finding a new found pride in reclaiming themselves."



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