September 15, 2006

Mascots influence everything

Changing mascots doesn’t signal failure, lack of honorThe question of mascots is significant for Native Americans. It transcends sports and entertainment. It influences law. It dominates resource management. It profoundly impacts every aspect of contemporary American Indian policy and shapes both the general cultural view of the Indian as well as Indian self-image. No groups other than the Indian face the legal situation in which their land, as well as their economic, political and cultural fate, is so completely in the hands of others. That is so because of the way in which substantial tribal resources are held “in trust,” with the management and regulation, if not always operation, resting with the federal government as “trustee.” The result is that the non-Indian in the U.S. Congress and in the executive branch control the fate of Indian peoples and their resources when they legislate and administer practices and policies.

The Indian image is, therefore, an especially crucial and controlling one because it is that image (often reflected in mascots like the Redman) which looms large as non-Indians decide the fate of Indian people. If the non-Indian decision makers continue to view native people as dinosaurs, as redskins or warriors, as happy hunter on the way to extinction, the policy will be different from what it would be if the decision–makers saw beyond the mascot and the stereotype.

13 comments:

Not a Sioux said...

If not for the feathers, I'd guess that the mascot of Wauwatosa East was either Ringo Starr or Aaron Spelling.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
More like Armand Assante in the sci-fi actioner PROPHECY. My Siamese/Tabby looks more Native than he did.
I agree that perception is everything and I know that people in New England still believe that Oklahoma Indians might attack their cars when they come through on I-40 and up to a point I even saw Jane Fonda doing the 'Tomahawk Chop' for the Atlanta Braves. But as I have reported elsewhere in this bog of a blog, it is far from an absolute that mascot removal necessarily is a good thing in each and every case, especially where Native students are concerned AFTER the protesters move on. I cited the disrespect and even harm that comes to Natives at Oklahoma University in the wake of the removal of Little Red, a Native student in authentic costume who once danced on the football and baseball fields after an OU score. My observation was that Natives once represented pride and thus were held in special regard by the other students. The response from a poster here was that it couldn't possibly be related to the mascot removal and that it must be some OTHER factor. Like what, that Natives are brown and not white, perhaps? But that would mean mascot removal brought about an increase in racial bias that has lasted from the 70s until today. No, it must be some OTHER factor. Global warming, sunspots, swamp gas, but not the removal of a mascot.
Then I wonder why everyone flees when I ask them if they ever heard of Occam's Razor...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

Writer, what do you think of Chief Wahoo, the Cleveland baseball mascot?

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Basically, I mostly am unfamiliar with the matter, save for having seen the figure in sports news. From my understanding, it is a caricature that may even find display by a person in costume. It concerns me little because I rarely watch baseball and I do not live in Cleveland and rarely do such teams ever come to Oklahoma.
If the nature of the question is that there purportedly is no differentiation possible among such symbols, I would point out that such an absolute defies logic and becomes a syllogism, therefore.
The classic example is, "All cats die. Socrates is dead. Therefore, Socrates was a cat." In this case, the syllogism would begin, "All Indian mascots are bad..." but no one here seemingly takes it any further than that.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

While Russ notes the disrespect that occurred after removing a mascot, I'll note the disrespect that occurs while mascots remain. Some examples from four different postings at Fighting Sioux vs. Fighting Irish:

Standing silently with a small group of students, the first comment I heard yelled from a passing vehicle was, "Go back to where you came from!" This comment was followed by yells of "F• you! Go back to your tipi! Drink firewater! If the logo goes so do your programs! You should be proud! I have an Indian friend and he likes the logo!"

At the game, I witnessed several of my white peers painted exorbitantly, with fake feathers adorning their bodies. Our fans were chanting and doing the tomahawk chop, while our opponent's fans were chanting slogans like, "Pillage the village, rape the women!"

While covering a protest of Native Americans prior to a football game at the University of Illinois, a college infamous in Indian country for its Chief Illiniwek mascot, I observed and photographed angry white Illini students and alumni spitting at and flicking lighted cigarettes at the Indian protesters.

He also relayed a story of how his sister-in-law's friend, a UND student and Cheyenne River Sioux, was harassed while walking back to his dorm. "Prairie N*****! Prairie N***** can't play basketball, they should go back to the rez' where they belong."

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
All well and good, but did those actions occur BEFORE or AFTER both protests and calls for the symbol's removal occurred? In the case in point about Oklahoma University, the disrespect and maltreatment and ill regard took place AFTER the mascot was removed, and it continues to this day. One 'tradition' simply was replaced by another 'tradition,' one that does far more damage than did the original.
In my original post about OU, I reported that it was AIM that fomented the protests and caused the mascot's removal. NONE of them attended OU or even intended to become students there. They moved on, made confident by their success, leaving the Native students to fend for themselves. The social repercussions began almost immediately. In anger over this, I enrolled at OU, attending on the GI Bill, and it almost was I alone who defended Native students against the student body and AIM, at one and the same time, for my whole four years there. I was no superhero, but I won every battle during that time. Alas, I moved on to other colleges and became the writer that I am now. Russell Means and Dennis Banks later became movie actors and likely do not know or even care what their actions at OU precipitated. They only know that they won.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Not a Sioux said...

There are clearly some differing perspectives here. I didn't "grow up Native", nor did I really know any Natives growing up. The media images, which were mostly stereotypes, were what formed my images of Natives. These images had to be corrected later on.
From this point of view, I can see the serious impact of these stereotypes.

Not a Sioux said...

(the above comment was more about stereotypes in general, and was not considered to be a contribution to the tangent specifically about the mascot incidents).

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Disclaimer noted. However, it does stress a point that some people are willing to learn while others seem unwilling to learn at all. That would be a case where rain does not fall equally on the just and the unjust.
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Two of the four incidents I listed had no obvious connection to mascot protests. You're just guessing if you think mascot protests somehow triggered the anti-Indian behavior. I'm pretty sure people have been yelling "prairie niggers" at Indians and telling them to go home long before mascots became an issue.

I've been following the mascot issue for 10-15 years, or since the mascot protests started getting attention. So yes, these incidents occurred during and after the protests. They also occurred during and after the time when mascot supporters swore they cherished, respected, and honored Indians. Yeah, they cherished their safe images of dead Indians while spitting on live Indians who didn't accept the so-called "honor." Some honor.

See Smashing People: The "Honor" of Being an Athlete for more on the subject.

I suspect the situations I noted are much more common than the situation you noted. But I'd love to see other examples of mascot schools that treated Indians with genuine honor before activists pointed out the mockery and ridicule--i.e., the lack of honor. Do you have any other examples?

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Here are my colleges:
Univ/Kansas '59
Bacone College '60-'62
Univ/Oklahoma '62-'63
(USAF '64-'68)
Clarion/College (PA) summer '69-'70
Univ/Oklahoma '70-'74
Tulane/Univ summer '71
Univ/Washington summer '72-'73
Univ/Iowa '74
UCLA summer '75
Univ/College, Univ/Edinburgh, Univ/Sussex (UK) summer '79
Univ/Miami (FL) '80-'82

Thus, only Univ/Okla had a Native mascot and the oddest mascot any did have was Univ/Miami, which was an Ibis. OU seems to be an exception to the rule, but then again, who made the rule? Occam's Razor, anyone?
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

Other than OU, are any of these schools with Indian mascots that treated Indians with genuine honor before activists pointed out the mockery and ridicule--i.e., the lack of honor? I'm guessing not.