Native American Mascot Report

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Schools’ Use of
Native American mascots
to the
State Board of Education
Susan Castillo Superintendent of Public Instruction
March 8, 2012

In Oregon, fifteen high schools have American Indian mascots—these race-based nicknames are the “Warriors,” the “Braves,” the “Chieftains,” the “Indians,” or the “Indian Eagles.” In all cases, the schools and communities believe they are respectfully honoring Native Americans. To suggest that such images may be offensive risks community outrage: community members believe they are unfairly being charged with being disrespectful or racist. The very topic invites passion on both sides and is divisive.
While the communities of these high schools believe they are honoring Native Americans, there is a growing body of social science literature and empirical research that indicates there are harmful effects of such racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals. These stereotypes are particularly harmful to the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people. Research indicates that using Native Americans as mascots promotes discrimination, pupil harassment, and stereotyping.
The Oregon State Board of Education has been given the responsibility by the Oregon Legislature in state statute to ensure that persons are not subjected to unlawful discrimination in our public schools on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age or disability. Native American students are also entitled to an educational environment that is not hostile and is conducive to the attainment of educational goals. The board has a responsibility to consider the research and weigh this against the community’s desire to maintain its traditions.
Since the 1970s, 20 Oregon high schools have changed their Indian-related nicknames and mascots. Oregon’s community colleges and universities have discontinued the use of Indian mascots. The Oregonian does not print names such as the Braves, Redskins, and Redmen.
Superintendent Castillo recommends the board thoughtfully consider the issue from all perspectives. Ideally, these conversations would occur at the community level, but traditions and the passion they evoke can make this difficult.
Recommendations: 1. Adopt a resolution to be distributed to public schools that describes the issues relating to
Native American mascots. 2. Adopt an administrative rule that prohibits public schools from using names, symbols or
images that depict or refer to an American Indian Tribe, custom, or tradition as a mascot, nickname, logo, or team name. 3. To mitigate costs and to allow districts adequate time to adopt new mascots, allow public schools five years to complete the mascot adoption process. 4. Give school districts freedom to use their own processes to select and adopt new mascots.

Native American Mascots March 8, 2012 5. Specifically seek input on the rule and resolution from those school districts who have been
identified in this report as having Native American mascots and from other groups such as the Oregon School Boards Association. 6. The rule and resolution should be considered through a process that allows for public and open discussions.
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Schools’ use of Native American Mascots
Schools began using Native American names and images between the 1930s and the 1950s. Many of the first mascots were cartoonish caricatures that have evolved into more dignified depictions. However, since the early 1970s, there has been a movement to eliminate Native American team names, mascots, and logos altogether.
Research supports that using a Native American as a mascot promotes discrimination. The American Psychological Association (APA)1 has called for the retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. The American Sociological Association has called for the elimination of the use of Native American nicknames, logos, and mascots in sports. Many newspapers will not print the name of such mascots, including The Oregonian. The National Collegiate Athletic Association stopped recognizing Indian mascots in 1998. A number of organizations have called on schools with Indian mascots to discontinue their use.
What About the Vikings? The Celtics? The Fighting Irish? One question that frequently arises in discussions of eliminating Native American mascots is whether mascots are different from other ethnically-based mascots. A key difference is that Native Americans represent a race of people, not an ethnic or political subgroup of a race, such as the Spartans.2
The historical experiences, status, and political power that can be attributed to American Indian people versus individuals of European descent are also vastly different. Irish and Scandinavians, for instance, are of European heritage and part of the numerically large, dominate white American society. Moreover, Irish Americans are the second largest subgroup in the country and there are more Americans of Irish descent than there are Irish in Ireland.
The same cannot be said for American Indian people who belong to a historically persecuted, disenfranchised group whose total numbers compose less than one percent of the national population.3
1 This page is a reprint of the APA position found at: 2 The 2010 Census recognized the following racial categories: White; Black, African American or Negro; American or Alaskan Native; Asian Indian; Chinese; Filipino; Japanese; Korean; Vietnamese; Native Hawaiian; Guamanian or Chamorro; Samoan; Other Pacific Islander; Other Asian. 3
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Native American Mascots March 8, 2012
Often schools that have chosen Irish mascots have communities with large Irish populations. An example of this is Notre Dame, which uses an imaginary character as its mascot (a "leprechaun"), that was for years a historically Irish Catholic university whose administration, staff, and student body were largely Irish Catholic. In other words, this school composed of many people of Irish heritage decided upon a nickname relating to their own ethnicity. The same cannot be said for the vast number of schools using "Indian" themed logos, symbols, mascots, and nicknames. As regards to Celtics, Spartans and Vikings, these types of mascots describe ethnic groups that have disappeared hundreds of years ago.
Sometimes comparisons are made between Native American mascots and vocation mascots like Cowboys, Lumberjacks, and Cheesemakers. However, such comparisons are not similar. Anyone can theoretically choose their own vocation but no one has a say in their own race. This is one reason that state and federal laws prohibit discrimination in public schools based on race but not based on vocation.
Native American Mascots as a Method of Incorporating Native Culture in Schools Some people argue that Native American mascots reflect and incorporate Native American history and culture into the public school setting and that Native American mascots focus on bravery, courage, and fighting skills rather than anything derogatory.
Some schools do make an effort to portray their educational institution's mascot in what they believe is a dignified and respectful manner. Regrettably, even in such instances there are things beyond the school's control that can get out of hand. There are often fans and players—on both sides of the playing field—who insist on wearing "war paint" or feathered headdresses, who shout ethnic-related slogans or slurs and display related signs and logos. Statements that are used by rival teams include words such as “kill the Indians.” These kinds of slogans and slurs can create a hostile educational environment for Native American students and serve to disrupt their education.
Some people have also argued that Native American mascots reflect the history of the local area. However, a review of many Oregon Native mascots used in public schools revealed that many mascots portrayed a generic, stereotypical Indian, a cartoon Indian or a Native American tribe from outside of Oregon. Additionally mascots often do not reflect local Native American culture and traditions.
The research of Stephanie Fryberg refutes the claim that as long as the depictions are respectful that no harm results in their use. She found that American Indian mascots have negative consequences because there are relatively few alternate characterizations and as such, are powerful communicators as to how American Indians should look and behave. Mascots remind
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American Indians of the limited way in which others see them, and this in turn may limit the number of ways in which American Indians can see themselves.4
In April of 2006, the Oregon Indian Education Association (OIEA) adopted a resolution to ban the use of all Native American mascots for sports events. This resolution supported action already taken by the National Congress of American Indians and National Youth Council.
In December 2006, Che Butler, accompanied by his sister Luhui Whitebear (both members of the Siletz tribe and members of OIEA), testified5 before the State Board of Education. Che Butler presented arguments in support of the OIEA resolution and described a number of incidents he found disturbing concerning schools’ use of Native American mascots:
• In Illinois, Native dolls were hung from trees and balconies when a rival team with a Native mascot was in town.
• In Arizona, “Scalp the Indians” was chalked in large letters on the lawn when a rival team with a Native mascot was in town.
• In South Dakota students wear “The Sioux Suck” shirts and chant this saying while playing a rival team with a Native mascot.
• The New York Post has headlines such as “Tribe on Warpath” and “Take the Tribe and Scalp ‘Em” when the NY Yankees play the Cleveland Indians.
• High schools post “Scalp the Indians” when playing rival teams.
Often the disrespect of the mascot comes not from the students and staff at a school that have adopted the mascot, but teams competing against the school.
Mr. Butler pointed out that native people are the only race of living people used as mascots in professional sports. He noted that none of these other images (right) would be seen as acceptable by the public.
Mr. Butler urged the board to examine the
4 Fryberg, Stephanie, et al. Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of Indian Mascots. Basic and Applied Social Psychology. 2008. 5 Many of the slides have been used in this paper. To see the complete presentation scroll to “School Mascots – C. Butler),
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issue and consider a ban on such images. In response to the presentation, Superintendent Susan Castillo formed an advisory committee to look into the issue. Members included school superintendents of districts that used Indian mascots, as well as representatives from the Oregon Civil Rights Commission, the Oregon Schools Activities Association, the Confederation of School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association, and individuals representing broad-based Native American groups.
The advisory committee held three meetings over 2007. The committee recommended the following: • Schools eliminate the use of Native American mascots and logos receiving state funding. • Schools educate all students about Native American stereotyping and its negative effects. • Schools use culturally accurate education materials, curriculum, and resources.
No public colleges or universities in Oregon use Native Americans as mascots.
In 1980, Southern Oregon University ended a tradition begun in 1950 when its mascots, the Red Raiders, were depicted as Indian chiefs. SOU changed their mascot name to the Raiders, and a native bird symbol was used.6
In 1998, Chemeketa Community College dropped its “Chiefs” nickname and selected “Storm” for its new name.7
Since the 1970s, 20 Oregon high schools have changed their Indian related nicknames and mascots.8
The Department of Education has identified 15 Oregon public high schools9 that use some form of Native American name or image:
6 7 Ibid. 8 Ibid. 9 (
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• Amity High School: Warriors • Banks High School: Braves • Lebanon High School: Warriors • Mohawk High School: Indians • Molalla High School: Indians • North Douglas High School: Warriors • Oakridge High School: Warriors • Philomath High School: Warriors • Reedsport High School: Braves • Rogue River High School: Chieftains • Roseburg High School: Indians • Scappoose High School: Indians • Siletz Valley School: Warriors • The Dalles-Wahtonka High School: Eagle Indians • Warrenton High School: Warriors

Roseburg High School changed its symbol from a depiction of a
Native American to a feather.

Images of the mascots can be found in Appendix C.

In 2005, the school board in Enterprise High School voted to approve the student body’s request to have the nickname, “Savages” and mascot changed to Outlaws after 80 years of “Savage” tradition. Superintendent Brad Royse credited students for this leadership.10

While the National Collegiate Athletic Association stopped recognizing Indian mascots in 1998, stating that such stereotypical depictions do not comply with NCAA’s commitment to ethnic students’ welfare,11 the Oregon Student Activities Association has not taken a similar stand.

In 2001, Senate Bill 488 was enacted and prohibited the term “squaw” in geographic place names, such as Squaw Creek. This was in response to the relatively new understanding that the term was pejorative. At that time, Oregon had over 100 place names that contained the word “squaw,” including numerous creeks, lakes, and mountains as well as a city street in Salem. Maine, Montana, Minnesota, and Oklahoma had enacted similar legislation.

Many newspapers will not print the name of such mascots, including The Oregonian; since 1993, the Oregonian has not printed names such as the Braves, Redskins, and Redmen. At the time, managing editor Peter Thompson stated, “. . . we have concluded that we will not be a passive

10 “Oregon high school scraps ‘Savage’ nickname, mascot (5/5/2005), retrieved on August 31, 2011, from, by AP, originally reported in Columbia, Vancouver, Wash. 11
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participant in perpetrating racial or cultural stereotypes in our community—whether by the use of nicknames or in any other way.” 12 (See editorial in favor of prohibition, Appendix H)


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 that “[t]hese references, whether mascots and their performances, logos, or names, are disrespectful and offensive to American Indians and others who are offended by such stereotyping” and “are particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country.”13

Since the early 1970s, more than 600 high school and

college teams have stopped using Native American team "This is a human rights issue; we are

names or mascots, though no professional sports team in the United States has followed suit. There are at least 117 American Indian, educational, psychological, sociological, civil rights and religious organizations that are officially

being denied the most basic respect. As long as our people are perceived as cartoon characters or static beings locked in the past, our socio-economic problems will never be seriously addressed. Also,

opposed to race based athletic nicknames or mascots.14

this issue of imagery has a direct

correlation with violence against Indian

Abandoning the use of Indian mascots continues the recognition that such imagery and names are offensive. In 2005, the NCAA prohibited the display of hostile and

people and the high suicide rate of our youth."
Michael S. Haney (Seminole)

abusive racial/ethnic/national origin mascots, nicknames or imagery at any of the 88 NCAA

championships and the following year, prohibited schools with hostile or abusive mascots,

nicknames or imagery from hosting any NCAA championship competitions.15

In May, 2010, Wisconsin enacted Act 250. Under this law, school district boards have “the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the use of the nickname or team name in connection with the logo or mascot does not promote discrimination, pupil harassment, or stereotyping as defined by the state superintendent by rule.”16

12 41,3572775 13 Connecticut Law Review. Volume 40, Number 1. November 2007. 14 Ibid. 15 16
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In 1999, Nebraska passed a resolution requesting that all institutions halt the use of race-based symbols and mascots. In 2003, Michigan’s State Board of Education passed a resolution recommending the elimination of American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos, fight songs, insignias, antics, and team descriptors by all Michigan schools. In 2005, Tennessee’s Commission of Indian Affairs passed a resolution to discontinue the use of Native American Indian mascots.
The United Methodist Church considers the use of Indian mascots “the practice a blatant expression of racism.”17
The National Conference for Community and Justice (formerly the National Conference of Christians and Jews) “applauds the numerous schools, districts, colleges and universities . . . that have changed their names, mascots, symbols and rituals, and calls for the elimination of such practices from all sports teams.”18
The United Church of Christ which said “As Christians, we must challenge the use of Native Americans as caricatures, and instead honor all human beings as being created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). The Presbyterian Church which “. . . direct the State Clerk to write to universities, colleges, and schools that use Native American imagery . . . urging them to develop a process to choose a new name, logo, and/or mascot for the team . . .”19
The American Jewish Committee which “deplores and opposes the use of racial or ethnic stereotypes in the names . . . of . . . sport (teams).”20
Additionally a growing list of organizations endorse retiring the use of “Indian” sports team mascots. (See Appendix E for a complete list.)
Research overwhelmingly supports that using a Native American as a mascot promotes discrimination; the use of a mascot promotes harassment; and the use of a mascot promotes stereotyping.

17 18 19 20

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Native American Mascot Report