Check out this film…Imagining the Indian 

Dispelling the Myths

Myth #1. There is nothing inherently wrong with Native Mascots

The social science is clear, Native mascots negatively affect Native youth self esteem and they are primers for prejudice for non-Natives.–web-psychological_.pdf

Myth #2. Native people have more pressing issues to address.

Native people are great multi-taskers and critical thinkers. We understand the interconnectedness of America’s systemic and institutionalized racism towards Native people and how it affects all the other issues they face. It is important and possible to address all the issues relating to Native self determination at once.

Myth #3. Native mascots is a new and overblown issue.

This is not a new issue. Almost 50 years ago, Stanford University changed its logo after Native students protested the college “Indian” mascot. Impatience is growing and resistance is mounting. Since that time hundreds of Native mascots have been replaced, but there are still many many more to go. The fact that Native people continue to push forward on the issue is a testament to its importance.

Myth #4. We are honoring Native Americans

If someone says that the words and/or images you are using about them is not honorable, then it is clearly not honoring them. Honor requires an accepting recipient. Here is a link to a list of Native Tribes and National Organizations that have stated clearly that Native mascots are neither honorable or welcome.

Myth #5. If we allow the team name the Fighting Irish, we should be fine with Native Mascots.

The mascot of Notre Dame is strongly related to the founders’ and original student body’s connections with Irish American history. Most Native people are absolutely fine with Native mascots when the team represents and is chosen by the Native community itself, but the majority of Native mascots/logos were appropriated by non-Natives for their own benefit with no connection to or approval of a Tribal Sovereign Nation.

Myth #6. Most Native people do not mind Mascots.

The wishful Washington Post surveyors in 2016 post may have caught a rarefied slice* of an older generation of self identified Native (largely unenrolled) people taking no offense to mascot. But the most important and credible source on the illegitimacy of those mascots is from Native Nations and National Native organizations themselves. They have spoken – mascots are out.

It is also informative to consider the research that indicates that those who suffer from the negative impacts of stereotypes and systems that impede their self determination often are reluctant to question those hierarchical practices that keep them in their diminished status.

In their 2014 paper titled, A Sense of Powerlessness Fosters System Justification: Implications for the Legitimation of Authority, Hierarchy, and Government, van der Toorn et al write:

“In addition, the possession of power is associated with an increased reliance on stereotypes and the derogation of subordinates (e.g., Fiske, 1993), both of which help to keep the powerless in their place and to reinforce the hierarchical status quo.”

“Formal and informal evidence exists to suggest that those who are worst off in society are often surprisingly uninterested in challenging the status quo (e.g., Gaventa, 1980; Henry & Saul, 2006; Hochschild, 1981; Jost et al., 2003; Lane, 1962; Memmi, 1965; Moore, 1978).”

*Looking at the survey distribution, it was clear that the surveyors lacked an understanding of the demographics and complexities of Native people. Despite the fact that most Native people of are a younger set, they overwhelmingly surveyed an older generation who likely do not represent the views of the newer generation. They also did not survey in areas where the majority of Native people reside which includes the Pacific Coast, New York and Alaska which also have a large representations of Urban Natives who likely have different views than their rural relatives, but are no less valid.

Myth #7 This is about tradition

Some traditions deserve to be permanently retired. Some examples of traditions that were rightfully ended are: African slavery, scalping of Native people for bounty, Blackface, binding of young Japanese women’s feet, castrating of young male singers, and forced religious conversion, to name a few. Tradition is never a good argument for continuing any form of oppression.

HRC Mascots

Reference List


American Psychological Association Resolution

Council of the American Sociological Association

State of California AB 30

U.S. Dept of Education White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. September 2016. (This link may need to be cut and pasted.)

Oregon State Board of Education Report Use of Native American Mascots

NPR Interview with Dr. Michael Friedman

Dr. Friedman’s Article in Psychology Today

Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots. Stephanie A. Fryberg–web-psychological_.pdf

The University of Riverside Today. Campus Online Magazine 

Smithsonian Outreach Office

Teaching Intolerance

NFL teaching Bullying

Why NOT Mascots!?

Opposition to Harmful “Indian” Sports Mascots 

The Issue

While stereotypes of Native people are common in many forms of media, Native mascots and logos are the most pervasive.  On a day-to-day basis, these caricatures invade our lives in local Little League baseball, public education, and widely televised sporting events. Lumping Native people along with team names of animals, mythological creatures, and inanimate objects is demeaning and objectifying which undermines Native people’s basic humanity. 

No other group of people are treated in this manner and it is unconscionable that it is done to the group of people that have suffered so much as a result of American colonization 

When contemporary Native people are treated as being less than human or simply do not look like the stereotypes mainstream American has been taught to expect, it gives fodder to those that want to limit our individual and collective opportunities. It breeds indifference towards Native people and that is harmful for a group with high poverty rates, the highest youth suicide rate and the highest rates of domestic violence – by the way largely perpetuated by non-Natives. And worst of all, these stereotypes limit the way Native children view themselves. Exposure to these demeaning caricatures has been shown to negatively affect Native youth self-esteem and academic performance. 

For the parents of non-Native children, they should also be concerned about the effects of Native mascots on their own children. Exposure to Native stereotypes has also been shown to increase discriminatory tendencies in white students. These images appear to act as primers for prejudice. In a world that increasingly requires solid social emotional skills to navigate global markets and complex social interactions, youth that are raised to have a narrow and prejudiced views of others will be at disadvantage. These days people talk about “gateway drugs”, perhaps we should also start talking about “gateway racism”.