It is not surprising that some Native Americans embrace "positive" stereotypes of Native Americans, and thus that some are not critical of Native American mascots (Springwood, 2001). There are several factors that encourage Native Americans to accept, internalize, celebrate, and even capitalize on, "positive" stereotypes of Native Americans. First, as just mentioned, many people do not define so-called positive stereotypes as stereotypes or racist. In fact, a group that experiences a great deal of inequality may be especially attracted to any imagery that is positive, as such imagery might be a relief from the negative. Second, throughout much of U.S. history Native people have faced intense pressures to acculturate and have been exposed to many of the same stereotypical images of Native Americans as non-Natives have (Shively, 1992; Slapin & Seale, 1998). These pressures have certainly resulted in some Natives adopting "dominant"/white/outsider views" of Native Americans. Third, given the destruction of native economies and the resulting economic destitution, some Native people have turned to the marketing of their ethnicity, or an acceptable Hollywood version of their ethnicity to survive, including teaching "Native spirituality" to non-Native Americans; selling Native jewelry and art; and managing Native tourist establishments (Bird, 1996; Deloria, 1998; Spindel, 2000; Springwood, 2001).
For my analysis of the SI poll, see The Sports Illustrated Poll on Mascots. I'm glad to see the Native experts came up with roughly the same criticisms that I did.
Below: What mascot lovers think they're honoring, and what they're actually honoring.