Change the Name, Change the Mascot

In response to the Napa Valley Register opinion piece, “Indian name is not racist” (Jan. 6).

The author makes the claim the word “Indian” is not racist. The issue here is not the word Indian, it is the continuance of American Indians being used as mascots and the stereotypical images and behaviors that insult us.

The word Indians, Redskins, Warriors, Braves or Chiefs that use our images as mascots disrespect our culture and make a mockery of our headdresses, our regalia and our dances. These things are sacred to us. Indian Mascots treat our history with contempt when a high school football team holds up a banner during a football game saying “Indians go home in a Trail of Tears.” This public school just ridiculed one of the most vicious atrocities in U.S. history.

The privilege of controlling our history, our image, makes the public schools no better than the forced boarding schools of native children that attempted to destroy our culture.

Is this what we want to teach in our public schools – that it is acceptable to have domination over another people’s cultural heritage? This long-standing use of native people as mascots force our native youth to see themselves as tokens with no value. Such practices have become so institutionalized that it becomes difficult to recognize this racism for what it is, and by tolerating these demeaning stereotypes in our schools, we desensitize generations of children.

 I do not know of any native people or native organizations that use the word “Indian” define the word as racist, even though historically we are well aware the word is a misnomer, mistakenly put upon us by Columbus when he was “discovered” lost on our continent.

Indian mascots do nothing to teach the complexity of our history, nor do they connect with the ongoing injustices we face today. In protecting and preserving our religious freedom, sacred sites, ancient burial grounds, land and water rights. With the current situation happening in North Dakota, where the Standing Rock Sioux tribe is being threatened by hyper-militarized police violence and brutality simply for protecting their right to clean water, how can anyone in this day and age think that Indian mascots “honor” us?


It is time to end this “tradition;” our youth deserve much better. Let us all demand better and say no to institutional injustice and inhumane symbolism. Change the name, change the mascot.


Kim DeOcampo, Tuolumne Mewuk, Houma-Choctaw Nations

Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes (SSPRIT)


3 thoughts on “Change the Name, Change the Mascot

  1. It is truly a shame in our day that a minority of people that believe that someone is offended by a symbol, can dictate the outcome of a decision based on speculation that someone’s feelings have been hurt. In this case the minority might win, because the members of the school board don’t respect or are not willing to represent the people that voted them in. From the looks of all of the feedback about this, it is clear that the Indian mascot should be left alone and celebrated. These people of the SSPRIT need something more in their lives than to go around and making waves over something which doesn’t matter to the majority of people. Seriously, they really need to confer with the Indigenous Tribes of America to see if it is a real issue, if it isn’t leave it alone. To all, copy and post to their website and any other group of people which want to make a mountion oout of a Mole Hill. Opps, did I offend the Moles? To look at things a different way, I now live in Washington State in a little town called Poulsbo. They have a high school here named North Kitsap High School and the mascot is a Viking. The town is made up of mostly Scandinavians of Viking heritage. They do not have any problems with the School being called the Vikings. In fact they think of it as a honor. Just as with the Indian Mascot at Napa High, the mascot represents the Native American as honorable, strong, brave, and knowledgeable. If I were of Native American heritage I would want to be represented like that. It is a symbol of strength, wisdom, and courage. I could see all the fuss if the Icon of the Napa Indian was a derogatory drawing, demonstrating the Napa Indian doing some thing wrong, or it was a symbol to represent say a garbage company, or something like that, but it isn’t that at all. It is representing a honorable School that has graduated some magnificent people over the years. Some how this organization has taken it upon it self to miss-represent the Native Americans. They need to use their money, time and resources to help the Native Americans be able to move off the reservations and become the pillars of society that they should be. Doing these type of demonstrations only causes I’ll will amongst all people and creates negative thoughts about the Native Americans because of a fictional thought brought on by a origination for the originations on goals and wealth.


    1. Myth – Some Native mascot names & images may be offensive, but ours is noble
      Both “bloodthirsty” and “noble” savage depictions uphold stereotypes, depicting us in the past, separate from our contemporary cultures. It’s difficult to be recognized in the present when schools suggest our authentic cultures only exist in museums. [Munson, B. (1999, March 22). Not for sport. Teaching Tolerance Magazine.]

      Myth – Natives are honored by mascots because it preserves their memory
      Our cultures are not stagnant, authentic, or preserved. Instead, they evolve and often contradict our diverse ancient practices and virtues. Mascots cannot preserve anything but our ongoing social-political annihilation. [Brave Heart, M. et al. (2011). Historical trauma]

      Myth – Native mascots aren’t an important issue
      Studies show Native mascots, even those deemed by Natives as neutral or positive, result in harmful psychological effects; including lower communal confidence and sense of achievement, distress, depression, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide. [Friedman, M. (October 16, 2013). The harmful psychological effects of the Washington Football Mascot.]

      Myth – The majority of Natives aren’t offended by mascots
      In 2002, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) surveyed over 500 Tribes, 99% of responding Tribes asked the NCAA to eliminate race-based athletic identities from college sports. [Staurowsky, E. J. (2007). You know, we are all Indian]

      Myth – There are other human mascots & they offend nobody
      Viking and Irish mascots are permitted by Scandinavian and Irish Europeans living in those areas. In general, Natives don’t have institutional power or consultation with teams or schools whose mascots were never permitted.

      Myth – Native mascots aren’t important because they don’t affect me
      Native mascots (1) lower self-esteem of Natives & raise self-esteem of Europeans, (2) reduces Native & European belief that Native communities have power and resources to resolve problems, and (3) reduce achievement-related future goals Natives & Europeans expect for Natives. [Fryberg, S. A., et al. (2008). Of warrior chiefs and Indian princesses. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 30(3), 208-218.]


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