The Four R's: Use of Indian Mascots in Educational Facilities

By Dolley, Jeff | Journal of Law and Education, January 2003 | Go to article overview

The Four R's: Use of Indian Mascots in Educational Facilities


Dolley, Jeff, Journal of Law and Education


The process of educating our youth for citizenship in public schools is not confined to books, the curriculum, and the civics class; schools must teach by example the shared values of a civilized social order .... The schools, as instruments of the state, may determine that the essential lessons of civil, mature conduct cannot be conveyed in a school that tolerates lewd, indecent, or offensive speech and conduct ....1

I. INTRODUCTION

In the field of competition we know as scholastic sports, each school,2 as is the custom among sports teams, represents itself with a name accompanied by a logo, image, and often, a mascot. These names, images, and mascots are used to generate enthusiasm and evoke feelings of loyalty among followers; for they create a sense of unity and cohesion with which athletic boosters and even non-fans identify.3

Some team names and images, in addition to generating support, also inspire dissention and hostility outside of the sports arena.4 Some people fight against the continued use of Indian mascots5 by sports teams, while fans and school officials fend off those challenges with arguments for the continued use of their beloved Indian mascots. IMAGE FORMULA6

Native Americans6 and others have sought to terminate the use of Indian mascots in a number of ways.7 They have sought remedies against Indian-mascoted schools and sports teams in courts of law;8 they have IMAGE FORMULA8

demonstrated against the use of such mascots;9 and they have petitioned teams to stop misappropriating their names through inaccurate logos and mascot decor and behavior.10 IMAGE FORMULA10

Likewise, schools have dealt with the issue in a variety of ways. Some schools have refused to replace their Indian mascots with less controversial ones11 while others have replaced Indian mascots with ones that are not controversial.12 Still others have sought to reach a middle ground.13 Some schools have taken a more affirmative stance.14 IMAGE FORMULA12

This article will outline arguments for and against the continued use of Indian mascots. It will then discuss aspects of seeking legal remedies against Indian-mascoted schools. The article will conclude with the suggestion that, because schools have a heightened responsibility to teach students academically as well as behaviorally, it is therefore inappropriate for schools to continue to use Indian names and mascots because they promote acceptability of racial stereotyping, a practice that runs counter to our educational ideals and societal morals. IMAGE FORMULA14

II. ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST THE USE OF INDIAN MASCOTS

A. Arguments of Opposers and Responses of Supporters

Opposers make a number of arguments in support of their position that the use of Indian mascots is inappropriate and should be terminated. They argue that such uses are stereotypical in that they promote misconceptions of Native Americans and their ways.15 This is harmful, Opposers claim, because it erodes tribal efforts to accurately preserve their culture.16 Opposers also insist that such uses are dehumanizing because they remove humane characteristics from Native Americans, depicting them instead as objects, cartoon characters, and savages.17 This has the detrimental affect of creating a perception of Native Americans as mythical ornaments, relegating them to an archaic, nonhuman, beastly status.18 "The Illiniwek19 exhibition is tantamount to someone putting on a parody of a Catholic Mass," said Norma Linton, an anthropology lecturer visiting the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.20 Opposers also believe that these teams are wrongly appropriating a people's identity and image for their own purposes.21

Supporters counter opposers' arguments with a number of responses intended to justify the continued use of Indian mascots.

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