Others Do Not
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Sports Teams Mascots,
Tokens, Nicknames, Logos and Associated
1. While anthropologists
often agree that some sports may have their origins in religious
rituals, perhaps imitating battle, the fierce competitiveness
inherent in many sports has frequently resulted in analogies being
draw between such activities and warfare. Thus we find that
characteristics like aggression, brute strength, deception, and
relentlessness, which are highly valued in combat, are also
desirable traits for athletes competing in the socialized, ritual
warfare of the sports arena.
By coupling American Indian
people to such traits via the use of symbolically related logos,
etc., negative stereotypes and historical inaccuracies are subtly
encouraged and perpetuated. One example of this can be seen in the
prolific use of the "warrior"
nickname which is very frequently related to First Nations by the
use of stereotypic logos and mascots. This insidious association is
particularly troublesome with regards to schools which, by virtue of
their perceived authority, have the ability to strongly influence
students in their development of lifelong attitudes and constructs.
misconceived, self-serving concept of American Indian people being
universally inclined toward particularly war-like and violent
behavior historically allowed for the justification of heinous acts
committed against Native Peoples in the name of
so-called "primitives." By continuing to portray First Nations
in this manner via association to the intrinsic aggression and
violence found in many sporting activities, this same
rationalization is erroneously continued to this day and carries
with it serious negative consequences for contemporary Native
While it cannot be
authoritatively said that the uses in question are a major factor in
the phenomenon, according to the United States Department of
Justice, American Indian people are more than
likely to be victims of violent crime than any other group of
3. Attitudes toward the use of
"Indian" related mascots are inculcated at an early age when the
individual is highly susceptible to influence and social pressure.
This phenomenon was successfully exploited by World War II
Nazi propaganda which paid particular attention to conditioning
youth to adopt anti-Jewish beliefs.
Similarly, it is also
interesting to note that several elements that were typically
present at Nazi spectacle events including cheering crowds, martial
music, marching, and lights (such as are used in night games) are
also regular parts of high school football.
4. Stereotypic, cartoon-like
imagery tends to dehumanize the subject. This mechanism is
well-known and is often used during times of war to dehumanize an
enemy. The result allows the portrayer to trivialize the concerns of
the one being portrayed and simultaneously helps protect self-esteem
by relieving guilt feelings arising from hostile acts directed
against the subject.
Dehumanization, as the word implies, is a psychological
process that reduces a person or group to a sub-human level. One
way in which this process is deployed is by suggesting the subject
of the dehumanization is like an animal. Because animals of
various types and "Indian" related mascots are those most frequently
used, it can be observed that this practice places
Native Peoples on a
par with wild beasts.
5. Through stereotyping and
objectification is facilitated. Instead of being thought of as
unique individuals each of whom is capable of the full range of
human behaviors and potentialities, Native Peoples are transformed
into depersonalized "things" having very limited scope. At work here
are the same principles found in pornography which also turns real,
living people into objects of a different sort.
6. Social psychologists tell us that an attitude is
composed of three parts: cognitive; affective (emotional); and
behavioral. Because of the strong and deeply rooted emotional
component involved in the uses in question, concepts held about such
uses are highly resistant to change through the application of
rational arguments or pure reason.
7. The use of such mascots
and nicknames are a form of
tokenism which consequently engenders rationalization of more
serious acts or negative attitudes directed toward Native Peoples.
8. The concept of mascots
and nicknames "honoring Indians" may in reality be an ego defense
mechanism that helps preserve the self-esteem of the individual
doing the alleged "honoring" by protecting him or her from facing
the reality of the genocidal horrors inflicted on First Nations
9. The generic quality of the spurious misnomer, "Indians," denies
Indigenous Peoples the sense of pride and place derived from an
understanding and recognition of one's unique cultural heritage. By
failing to illustrate the great diversity found among Native
American cultures, generic mascots facilitate stereotypical
categorization and perpetuate false concepts that arose with the
first contact between European explorers and their Indigenous
10. "Indian" mascots
"freeze" Indigenous Peoples in a romanticized historical period that
ended over a century ago - and which
truth probably never existed. By continuing to portray American
Indians in such a manner the reality of how First Nations peoples
are today - living, struggling and adapting like everyone else in
the modern world - is set askew.
11. Because of the pervasiveness and longevity
involved in the use of American Indian related mascots by public
schools, such uses have become
institutionalized. Having been institutionalized, it becomes
very difficult to recognize the discriminatory and racist practices
for what they are.
American Indian Sports Team Mascots
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