Change the Name, Change the Mascot

Kim DeOcampo, Tuolumne Mewuk, Houma-Choctaw Nations

SSPRIT Executive Director

 

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.

 

 

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