In the past week, I was approached by a student in my Multicultural class who was upset by what a professor with a Ph.D. had to say about Mascots and the American Indian culture. He stated that, "The American Indians are always complaining about something," and "I don't see what the big deal is about American Indian names and logos being used for mascots."
First of all, I have spent a considerable amount of time at this university fighting against these assumptions that create bias towards American Indians and their culture, and these are the attitudes that keep people of diversity separated.
Secondly, we, as American Indians have a right to live a dignified life. These mascots and their logos are blatant racial stereotypes of American Indian people, the same as the stereotypes of black people, such as "Little Black Sambo" and "Aunt Jemima." "Chief Wahoo" of the Cleveland Indians is a stereotypical picture of what many non-native people think American Indian people look like.
Other logos are stereotypical pictures of American Indian people as fierce warriors, with a serious face and feathers, which portray American Indian people as savages. Many logos represent the stereotypical mockeries of religious and cultural items, such as the "Tomahawk," which is sacred to many First Nations. The "Tomahawk Chop" would be the same as taking wooden crucifixes with the bleeding Jesus on them and throwing the imitations into a field or stadium. "Chief Wahoo" is painted bright red with a big nose, a headband, and a feather in his hair. In almost every American Indian religion and culture, eagle feathers are extremely sacred. This sacred item is desecrated and grotesquely mocked.
Also, in many American Indian cultures, braves and warriors have religious standing, and chiefs are religious leaders, such as preachers and priests in the Christian religions. Calling a team "Braves," "Warriors" and "Chiefs" is a mockery of American Indian religion and belief.
In conclusion, Mr. Professor, these mascots portray American Indians as inferior, which anyone with an educational world view knows its not true. These mascots and logos establish mockeries that make American children and youth feel extremely ashamed of being American Indians. These mascots are horrific blows to the self-worth and self-esteem of American Indian children and youth.
American Indian cultures and religions play a high emphasis on peace, non-violence, community and respect for the earth, unlike the mascots that portray blood-thirsty and warlike savages.