February 06, 2009

"Utes" alienate Utes

Native student protest has diverse roots and reasonsCharges and countercharges of hostility and misunderstanding have fueled a long-standing controversy that erupted Dec. 4 when a group of Native students confronted the University of Utah to call for an investigation into policies affecting them.

The protest march was peaceful and, while no university officials spoke to the group, Michael Young, University of Utah president, was asked--unsuccessfully--to meet about issues highlighted at the protest, said Deb Yazzie, head of the Coalition to Protect American Indian Education Rights.

“The purpose of this protest is to raise awareness of the university’s attempts to silence American Indian students, staff and faculty who protest university policies that ultimately alienate, divide and destroy American Indian communities,” the coalition’s prepared statement read.

Asked to elaborate on the group’s concerns, Yazzie said the University of Utah uses the “Ute” nickname and has the red-tailed hawk as a mascot, “but the community and the university have not embraced that--people still wear feathers and paint and do the ‘tomahawk chop.’”

The many-faceted sense of outrage appears to center only in part on the “Ute” name as used by the university. Other key issues have included a T-shirt offensive to students, a controversial sign displayed during a volleyball game at nearby Brigham Young University and the termination of an American Indian teacher-training program.
Comment:  Coincidentally, this article came out just after I posted something on the University of Utah's Utes. Good timing, Indian Country Today.

In Mormons, Utes, and Rob the "Bigot," someone claimed the aforementioned controversial sign was aimed solely at Utah's "Ute" nickname and mascot. That it had nothing to do with the actual Ute Indians. Here we see how phony that distinction is.

The "Ute" nickname and mascot are inextricably bound with the actual Ute Indians. Utah's non-Native fans know it, which is why they dress up as stereotypical Indians and do the tomahawk chop. Utah's Native students know it, which is why they're protesting the school's poor record of "honoring" Utes. Everyone seems to know it except our poor anonymous commenter.

For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.

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