indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Sovereignty and E-Commerce:  Innovating and Reshaping the  Borders of Indian Country - Arizona State University Third Annual Tribal Government E-Commerce CLE Conference
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Tim Giago: Mascots insulting to most Indians
Monday, December 31, 2007
Filed Under: Opinion

The mainstream media and common ignorance has convinced some Native Americans that being a mascot for American sporting teams is OK; that it is all right to be ridiculed, mimicked and degraded for the sake of satisfying white and black sports fans.

Mascots usually consist of lions, tigers and bears, oh my. They are bison, bulldogs, and horses either led out on the field on leashes or ridden by outrageously painted Indians or Trojans. Or they are Vikings, figments of history, with no connection to today’s reality. Or they are Fighting Irish with a fictitious leprechaun mascot dancing around the sidelines.

They are cowboys, steelers, packers, or boilermakers that some nincompoops mistake for an ethnic minority. If the fans of these teams choose to honor these symbols for their sports teams, so be it. But when they take real life American Indians and turn them into cartoon caricatures and then mimic them by painting their faces, donning feathers, and doing the tomahawk chop, they cross that thin line called racism.

The University of North Dakota is fighting to retain a mascot they call the Fighting Sioux. The people they are aping no longer call themselves Sioux, but instead call themselves by their traditional names. Sioux was a bastardization of French and Ojibwe which could be interpreted as “Little Snake.”

And even if UND alumni wanted to retain this apparently erroneous name, it is what they do in presenting that image I find reprehensible. One year when UND played its main rival, the North Dakota State Bison, a cartoon image made the rounds of an Indian warrior sexually mounting a buffalo with the appropriate language attached. Another time in the city of Bismarck just before a renewal of this instate rivalry, some fans of North Dakota State were calling their UND rivals “The F_ _ _ing Sioux.” They used the “F” word to not only insult the fans of UND, but collaterally insulted all Native Americans in the state.

If one happened to be in Champagne/Urbana, Illinois before a big sporting event, in order to laud their mascot, Chief Illiniwek, a white boy dressed up in Native attire, one could see images of bleary-eyed, drunken Indians painted on the windows of the downtown bars. On sale in the local markets and drugstores, one could purchase rolls of toilet paper with images of Indians imprinted on every sheet.

One year, before a big football game between the Minnesota Gophers and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini, stuffed Indian dummies could be seen with ropes around their necks hanging from buildings and trees on the Minnesota campus.

Now any Indian or white that finds the things I have written above as “honoring” American Indians holds a very different view of what the word “honor” holds for the majority of Native Americans.

I cannot end this piece without referring to the Sunday a few years ago when the fans of the Washington professional football team (I will not use the “R” word here), painted a pig red, placed a feathered bonnet on its head, and then chased it around the football field at halftime. If they had painted a pig black and placed an Afro wig on its head and chased it around the football field at halftime, how many African Americans would have considered that an “honor?”

Let it suffice to say the 90 percent of all Native Americans in this country consider their use as mascots for America’s fun and games an insult. In the U. S. Navy we used to have a saying that went, “There is that 10 percent that never gets the word.” And yes, you will find that 10 percent standing proudly while 90 percent of their brethren are being insulted.

The mainstream media has, for 200 years or more, published articles about Native Americans that they considered quaint or humorous. Or they have published articles without ever checking the facts. There have been too many to list here, but a good example is the one last week that gushed about the Lakota Sioux (a misnomer) withdrawing from the United States of America. The MSM never bothered to check the authenticity of this article by talking to the legally elected presidents of any tribe in South Dakota. They never considered that treaties are made between nations and not individuals.

But that is just one example of how the media has never understood why most Indians detest their use as mascots. Only Oprah Winfrey used her television show to invite Native Americans to discuss their feelings about this topic, but that was 15 years ago.

Ten percent does not make up a majority, so please stop catering to that 10 percent.

Tim Giago, an Oglala Lakota, was born, raised and educated on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard in the Class of 1991. He can be reached at najournalist@msn.com.

More Tim Giago:
Tim Giago: Remembering Wounded Knee (12/18)
Tim Giago: A Christmas story from Pine Ridge (12/10)
Tim Giago: Three courageous Indian women (12/3)
Tim Giago: Helen Felix, a Lakota with gift of gab (11/26)
Tim Giago: The myth of the Pilgrims and Indians (11/19)
Tim Giago in S.D. Newspaper Hall of Fame (11/14)
Tim Giago: The pain of losing a child never ends (11/12)
Tim Giago: Rep. Watson attacks Cherokee Nation (11/5)
Tim Giago: Church abuse must not go unpunished (10/29)
Tim Giago: Remembering Vernon Bellecourt (10/22)
Tim Giago: American Indians are not mascots (10/15)
Tim Giago: Stop trying to rename 'Indians' (10/8)
Tim Giago: The origins of Native American Day (10/1)
Tim Giago: Growing up in Kyle, Pine Ridge Reservation (9/24)
Tim Giago: Healing the wounds that haunt Pine Ridge (9/17)
Tim Giago: Closing a dark chapter at Pine Ridge (9/10)
Tim Giago: AIM responsible for Anna Mae's death (9/4)
Tim Giago: 'Commod bods' going out of fashion (8/27)
Tim Giago: Tribes should include all their citizens (8/20)
Tim Giago: Hollywood dashes hopes of 'Wounded Knee' (8/6)
Tim Giago: Honeymoon is over for California tribes (7/30)
Tim Giago: Modern Indian heroes compiled in book (7/23)
Tim Giago: Media errors in 'State of Native Nations' (7/9)
Tim Giago: Columnist disparages Native people (7/2)
Tim Giago: Pine Ridge still needs a hand up (6/25)
Tim Giago: The great horse of the Pawnee Nation (6/18)
Tim Giago: Indians still the most misunderstood (6/11)
Tim Giago: The theft of the sacred Black Hills (6/4)
Tim Giago: Clear and present danger to sovereignty (5/28)
Tim Giago: Rich tribes still not helping poor ones (5/21)
Tim Giago: Standing ground against 'Dropout Nation' (5/14)
Tim Giago: Indian prophecies and medicine (5/7)
Tim Giago: Help the poorest county in America (4/30)
Tim Giago: Honoring those who died at Washita (4/23)
Tim Giago: Mainstream media ignores the real issues (4/16)
Tim Giago: Racism and hypocrisy over Imus (4/11)
Tim Giago: Kill the Indian and save the child (4/9)
Tim Giago: The dark legacy of boarding schools (4/2)
Tim Giago: Tribes continue to surrender sovereignty (3/26)
Tim Giago: Venezuela steps up for Indian nations (3/19)
Tim Giago: Cherokee Nation votes out Freedmen (3/12)
Tim Giago: Oglala Lakota Tribe still struggling (3/5)
Tim Giago: A view from South Dakota, the 'red' state (2/26)
Tim Giago: 'Chief Illiniwek' does his last dance (2/19)
Tim Giago: Greed is the new God in Indian Country (2/12)
Giago discusses 'dark legacy' of boarding schools (2/5)
Tim Giago: Writing helped heal wounds of abuse (1/29)
Tim Giago: How many others will die over Iraq? (1/22)
Tim Giago: Apache journalist opens doors in media (1/15)
Tim Giago: Newspaper fills gap in South Dakota (1/8)
Tim Giago: Recognize an Indian hero in the new year (1/2)

Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power (4/26)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Let's call Columbus by what he truly was (4/26)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota youth set up beekeeping business (4/26)
Cronkite News: Trump seeks to hire thousands of border officers (4/26)
Doug Pibel: New film teaches us about value of indigenous seeds (4/26)
Jenn Weddle: 'Best possible result' from court in sovereignty case (4/26)
Peter d'Errico: Oneida architect offers indigenous approach to law (4/26)
Whiteclay liquor stores aim to stay open pending fight for licenses (4/26)
Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leads to recall in Alaska city (4/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe loses appeal in federal recognition lawsuit (4/26)
Police use tear gas & rubber bullets at indigenous protest in Brazil (4/26)
Mohegan Tribe wants gaming disputes resolved in judicial system (4/26)
Supreme Court hands defeat to tribal interests in sovereignty case (4/25)
Matthew Fletcher: 'Gamesmanship' brings defeat in Supreme Court (4/25)
Supreme Court relists petition in Gun Lake Tribe gaming land case (4/25)
Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute team wins NASA prize (4/25)
Former top Bureau of Indian Affairs official joins Washington firm (4/25)
Native Sun News Today: Groups fight uranium mining in Black Hills (4/25)
Cronkite News: Budget deadline falls on Donald Trump's 100th day (4/25)
Mary Annette Pember: Indian Child Welfare Act heals our families (4/25)
André Cramblit: Tribes must make language survival a top priority (4/25)
Cowlitz Tribe welcomes big crowd to $510M casino in Washington (4/25)
Aquinnah Wampanoag Tribe sees more opposition to gaming win (4/25)
Pojoaque Pueblo loses big decision in gaming dispute with state (4/24)
Supreme Court takes no action on long-running tribal land case (4/24)
Yakama Nation landowners see $68M in Cobell buy-back offers (4/24)
Tim Giago: Sovereignty at risk with Donald Trump in White House (4/24)
Mark Trahant: Donald Trump & Republicans can't seem to govern (4/24)
Native Sun News Today: Chickasaw citizen donates prom dresses (4/24)
Steve Russell: The BEST advertisement for education in America (4/24)
Arlana Bennett: Picking cans with my father became our tradition (4/24)
Terese Mailhot: Maybe some people should be able to play Indian (4/24)
Charles Kader: Tribal communities still face threats to their lands (4/24)
3rd suspect sought in connection with death of elderly Native man (4/24)
Mashantucket Tribe expresses interest in growing industrial hemp (4/24)
Shutdown of federal government looms ahead of April 28 deadline (4/24)
Confederate monuments start coming down as Jackson stays put (4/24)
Blackfeet Nation citizens approve historic water rights settlement (4/21)
Native Sun News Today: Cheyenne River Sioux woman still walking (4/21)
James Giago Davies: Our future is not bleak but bright with promise (4/21)
Rosalyn LaPier: Tradition blends with science in tribal communities (4/21)
Simon Moya-Smith: Media continues to peddle in Indian stereotypes (4/21)
Steven Newcomb: Bill in California dehumanizes indigenous peoples (4/21)
American Indian Library Association battles Trump's big budget cut (4/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.