Why are “Native” mascots/names harmful?

Below are a list of common arguments Native people who advocate for the elimination of Native Mascots/names face constantly.

Whats the big deal? It’s just football, its just a mascot, stop being so sensitive!

Native people are alive and represent nations and tribes within the colonized boundaries of the United States, in Canada, and Mexico. As Indigenous people we’ve been historically mis-represented through media, Hollywood, and popular culture because we were not supposed to survive genocide. Native people are rarely represented in the way we choose and America, the media, Hollywood and popular culture perpetuate stereotypes that Native people are savages, blood thirsty, that we all wear headdresses and that we are one homogenous group and people of the past. Many people need to understand that mascots are meant to be ridiculed, tortured, laughed at, and demonized. When you put a living ethnic group in that position, you open them up to ridicule and further manipulation. Native people have been victims long enough. We are done with that. Our culture isn’t a free market.

What are the harmful effects of Native mascots, nicknames, and Native themed mascots on Native youth?

The continued use of Native mascots, nicknames and Native themes in sports dehumanizes our image as real people. This creates harmful situations for our people, especially our youth. Studies conducted by psychologist Stephanie Freyberg shows stereotypes of Native people lower the self-esteem of Native Youth. (http://www.indianmascots.com/ex_15_-_fryberg_brown_v.pdf ) and (Davis-Delano, L.R., Gone, J.P., Fryberg, S.A., (2020). The psychosocial effects of Native American mascots: A comprehensive review of empirical research findings). In 2005, the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of Native American mascots as this negatively affects our youth ( http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/indian-mascots.aspx ).  Native mascots and nicknames harm Indigenous children and they should be retired. END OF STORY.

Native mascots honor Native people, if all Native mascots are gone, then people would forget Natives even exist. 

  1. The way Native mascots are used in sports and in schools overwhelmingly result in the perpetuation of Native stereotypes. Stereotyping Native people who represent over 570 federal recognized tribes in the U.S. alone does not represent the diverse sovereign Nations are. Native mascots/nicknames only allow non-Natives to see Indigenous people/Native people thru one lens, through historic monolithic symbols i.e., people of the past. Native people today represent rich cultures and are constantly trying to push past stereotypes and micro-aggressions in their everyday lives.
  2. You cannot force honor on Native people. Native people vehemently stated over and over again, throughout the decades that we do not feel honored. Social science research shows Native mascots harm Native youth further, Native people should be the ONLY people who can state what honors them. A majority have spoken and that is where the conversation ends.
  3. There are so many other ways to honor Native people. First, let’s talk about honoring treaties Native Nations signed with the U.S. Government. All treaties have been broken and Native people are constantly protecting their sovereignty in federal and state courts. We are constantly trying to get the U.S. government to live up to their treaty obligations but this hasn’t happened. It’s a constant struggle! Non-Natives can acknowledge this in every day life and when in politics and government, uphold these obligations. Non-Natives can also honor Native people by calling us by our own tribal affiliations. There are so many different tribes and many times Native people identify with multiple tribes. You can also honor us through our land. Every mile and inch of the land you are on in the U.S. is the original unceded territory of Native people. Learn whose land you are on and share with others. This does not mean you need to name streets or schools after Native people, this goes back to mascotting Native people. You also don’t need to take on this identity as your own. You have your own identity and culture, allow Native people to live and celebrate theirs as they please.
  4. Let’s be frank here, honoring is a simple excuse for wanting to keep your Native mascot which is probably racist AF. It’s a cover-up for the colonization of the Indigenous identity. Don’t you find it strange how Native people at many points in history were not able to be Native? Our hair was cut off and we were abused for speaking our own languages in boarding schools. We were forced off our land and forbidden from practicing our spiritual practices. Then it seems non-Native people took our identity as costumes (the romanticized identity of the “Plains Indians”) and commodified that identity for their own. Now non-Natives believe that is their identity. “It’s MY football team name!” “I’ve always been a r*dsk*n, my whole family has and nothing is going to change that”. Our identity was taken and now we are demeaned for speaking up about it. How backward and twisted is that? Native people are done debating whether or not Native mascots honor them or not, it’s racist, just stop.

Native mascots have been around for years, why are you complaining now?

More to come….

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