Education | Opinion

Maulian Smith: An ugly war over a racist school mascot in Maine

A statue of an "Indian" in Skowhegan, Maine. Photo from Blowin in the Wind

Maulian Smith, a member of the Penobscot Nation of Maine, explains the harmful effects of Indian mascots:
When Native Americans are portrayed as mascots we are brought down to a level of being an object or a token, not a race of actual people with a rich heritage and modern day life.

The images are stereotypical and keep us in a one size fits all box of what we are supposed to look and act like. This is harmful to our people because it shapes how we are treated by dominant society. We are degraded and disrespected because to them all we are is a people in the past and we are silly pictures with big noses and red skin.

Even if the images are nice to look at it still is taking a race of people and objectifying us.

The symbols: feathers, war paint, peace pipe, tomahawk, clothes, etc are all sacred to our culture and are to be used in the proper way by our people. When they are paraded around and misrepresented by these teams it is mocking our religion and undermining our core values.

Our children grow up in a time that identity is crucial. They need to know who they are so that they are prepared for the challenges of life. If they see this identity stolen, ridiculed, mocked, misused, laughed at, lied about, etc then it hurts them and makes our nations weaker.

This weakening of our sense of identity is a contributor to our high rates of: alcoholism, suicide, crime, cultural loss, domestic violence, and obesity. Words matter.

No other group is treated this way. There would never a team with stereotypical and/or derogatory depictions of African Americans, Catholics, Jews, Hispanic, or Caucasians.

Get the Story:
Maulian Smith: 'Beat Your War Drum Somewhere Else!': The Ugly War Over a Racist Mascot (Indian Country Today 6/21)

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