About Mascot Decolonization

Video of SSPRIT members addressing the board

Colonization and Decolonization

Colonization generally refers to the process that is perpetuated after the initial control over Indigenous Peoples is achieved through invasion and conquest. Perpetuating colonization allows the colonizers to maintain or expand their social, political, and economic power. It is detrimental to us because their power comes at the expense of Indigenous lands, resources, lives, and self-determination. Not only has colonization resulted in the loss of major rights such as land and self-determination, most of our contemporary daily struggles are also a direct consequence of colonization (poverty, family violence, chemical dependency, suicide, health deterioration). Colonization is an all-encompassing presence in our lives.

Decolonization is the meaningful and active resistance to the forces of colonialism that perpetuate the subjugation and/or exploitation of our minds, bodies, and lands. Its ultimate purpose is to overturn the colonial structure and realize Indigenous liberation. First and foremost, decolonization must occur in our own minds.

~By Waziyatawin and Michael Yellow Bird, from the Introduction to For Indigenous Minds Only: A Decolonization Handbook~

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About “Indian” Mascots:

The intolerance and harm promoted by “Indian” sports mascots, logos, or symbols, have very real consequences for Native people. Rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of First Nations Peoples and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native Americans.

As documented in a comprehensive review of decades of social science research, derogatory “Indian” sports mascots have serious psychological, social and cultural consequences for Native Americans, especially Native youth. Of today’s American Indian and Alaska Native population, those under the age of 18 make up 32 percent, and Native youth under the age of 24 represent nearly half, or 42 percent, of the entire Native population. Most concerning in considering negative stereotypes of Native people, are the alarmingly high rates of hate crimes against Native people.  According to Department of Justice analysis, “American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race.”

These factors together indicate a very real need to take immediate action in a number of areas, including the removal of harmful images as well as the education of the general public. Over the last fifty years, hundreds of tribal nations, national and regional tribal organizations, civil rights organizations, school boards, sports teams, sports and media personalities, and individuals have called for the end to harmful “Indian” mascots.

~National Congress of American Indians~ NCAI.ORG

United States Commission on Civil Rights

In 2001, the United States Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools. The Commission concluded “These references; whether mascots, their performances, logos and/or names, are disrespectful & offensive to American Indians & others who are offended by such stereotyping and are particularly inappropriate & insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country”.

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