SSPRIT Secretary & Public Relations Officer
For several decades, Native Americans have stated they do not feel honored by Indian mascots; this includes a national campaign to remove Indian mascots, images, and stereotypes in media, sports and schools. There are approximately 185 schools in California that have Native American Mascots; the most prevalent being warriors and the second being Indians.
Rather than honoring First Nations Peoples, these images perpetuate stereotypes, promote cultural appropriation and keep Native Americans as a people of the past; this negates the contemporary relevance of First Nations Peoples. The use of racially derogatory or discriminatory mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is anti-ethical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all. Athletic team names, mascots, and nicknames that have been used and remain in use by other teams, including school teams, are discriminatory in singling out the Native American community for the derision to which mascots or nicknames are often subjected.
The (National) Native American Mascot debate dates back to 1968. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) launched a campaign to address stereotypes of Native Peoples in popular culture and media, as well as in sports. Furthermore, The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights states, “Many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use.”
Over the last fifty years, hundreds of tribal nations, national and regional tribal organizations, civil rights organizations, school boards, sports teams, sports & media personalities, and individuals have called for the end to harmful “Indian” mascots.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: 1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information. 2. States shall take effective measures, in consultation and cooperation with the indigenous peoples concerned, to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.
Also, Article 26 – Paragraph 2 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality, and to the strengthening of respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.”
Mascots are derisive/meant to be ridiculed; Napa Valley Unified School Districts policy language regarding anti-bullying and discrimination supports the removal of the Napa High School Indian Mascot; Maintaining respect of different cultural values, attitudes, fairness and dignity, demonstrating respect for human rights and non-discrimination.