Opinion: Indian mascots send wrong message to kids

"Native American mascots and 'nicknames' are damaging to the self-identity, self-concept and self-esteem of Native American people. The vast majority of Native American Indians oppose the use of their image and names by non-Indian schools and sports teams, as evidenced by the resolutions condemning the use of Native American 'mascots' by the National Congress of American Indians (1998) and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (2001).

These should be sufficient findings about the negative effects of mascots to persuade schools to voluntarily change their mascots. In states where there are large populations of Native Americans, a request is all it has taken for the schools to initiate the change. But Tennessee is different from most other states -- it was purposefully racially cleansed of Native American tribes in the 1800s, making Native American Indian sports 'mascots' in Tennessee a nostalgic irony bordering on insult.

Self-identity of Native American Indians is the moral and exclusive responsibility of Native Americans, not non-Indian high school cheerleaders and alumni associations. What are we teaching our children when we say that the majority social or ethnic group has the right to portray others any way they want to?

Schools and their alumni treat their 'Indian mascot' as a commodity, a thing, a piece of property that is theirs forever, a doll to dress up and make dance, yodel pretend-war whoops, and safely play with as they please, like slaves of the mid-1800s. As long as the words 'Indians' and 'Chiefs' and 'Redskins' and their related representations are considered the historical property of schools, we continue to live in a slave society."

Get the Story:
Tom Kunesh: Native Americans singled out as symbol (The Tennessean 1/27)

Relevant Links:
NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee - http://www1.ncaa.org/eprise/main/

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media - http://www.aimovement.org/ncrsm

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