"All American Mascots" -- a cartoon by Thom Little Moon in the former Indian Country Today
Opinion | Sports

Native Sun News Today Editorial: Sports teams continue to denigrate Indian people

Mascots: Here we go again!

By Native Sun News Today Editorial Board

All of our readers should know one thing when it comes to mascots and those who would denigrate American Indians in order to have a mascot they can honor: The word “Fan” is derived from the word “Fanatic.”

That should explain the actions of the fans of the Washington R-Words, the Cleveland Indians, and the Kansas City Chiefs. They find it thrilling to stick turkey feathers in their hair, paint their faces, and do the hideous tomahawk chop and sing the songs off key to the sickening chants of the Grade B Western movies that are supposed to be Hollywood’s version of Indian war chants.

The ridiculous caricature of an Indian emblazoned on the caps of the Cleveland baseball team is an insult to all Native Americans. However, the fans love it Indians be damned.

At one NFL game the fans of the Washington R-Words decided it would be hilarious to get a couple of small pigs, paint them red, place feathered ceremonial bonnets on their heads and then chase them around the football field. What a way to honor us!

When we argue that this is not an honor fans say, “What about the Minnesota Vikings?” There are no more Vikings. They are figments of history so that is why there is nothing to compare here. The Pittsburg Steelers? A profession not a race of people. The Dallas Cowboys? Once again a profession and not a race of people.

Redskin is a demeaning word used to describe Indians by the early settlers. When there were bounties on the heads of Indians, men, women and children, the redskin was looked upon as a pelt to be handed over to those paying for the bounties. But don’t take our word for the dictionary meaning of redskin, look it up yourself.

This editorial is one of the very rare times you will actually see the word “Redskin” in this newspaper. We have to use it in order to demonstrate its relevance as to why it is despicable.

We have run editorials in the past about the reaction African Americans would have if fanatical football fans painted little pigs black, put Afro wigs on them and chased them around the football field. Can the fans say they are doing this to honor African Americans?

There is a movie called “In Whose Honor” that is a must for all football fans to see. Charlene Teters, Spokane Indian, was behind the production of the movie. She was a graduate student at the University of Illinois in the 1980s and became disgusted with their mascot Chief Illiniwek. It Illinois mascot dressed the garb of the Plains Indians, and was always a young, white student, who pranced around the football field doing what he thought to be Indian dances. His maneuvers were insulting to all Indians.

She stood outside of the stadium of the Fighting Illini wearing traditional Indian attire holding a small sign the read, “We are human beings and not mascots.” Some of the wonderful fans of the Illini flipped burning cigarettes or spit on her as they made their way into the stadium. They would rather honor a fake Indian rather than a real one.

When Michael Haney, Charlene and Vernon Bellecourt protested a Redskins game in Minneapolis they were clubbed by the Minneapolis police and the then editor of Indian Country Today, Tim Giago, had his camera ripped from his hands and the film he was shooting torn from the camera and destroyed. Suzan Shown Harjo was also on the front lines of the protests and appeared with Tim and Haney on the Oprah Winfrey Show to protest the Washington Redskins.

We stand proud to announce that young Native Americans like Rhonda Levaldo, a journalism instructor at Haskell, and many of her friends, are now taking the torch from the protestors of old and running with it. It’s been a long battle, but we will win in the end. Indians are not to be compared to lions, tigers or bears. We are human beings and not mascots for America’s fun and games.

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Contract the Native Sun News Today Editorial Board at editor@nativesunnews.today

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