July 25, 2009

Eliminating the Stanford Indian

Dean Chavers writes about how he helped rid Stanford of its Indian mascot despite an Indian who defended it:

Around the Campfire:  Racism and Mascots

By Dr. Dean ChaversI had not given any thought to what the Stanford mascot was. In fact, I may not have even known it was an Indian. I certainly did not know that Tim Williams, Ronald Reagan’s in-house Indian when Reagan was governor of California, got dressed up every Saturday in the fall and danced around the Stanford football field, putting curses and hexes on the opponents.

Tim met with us once during the fall of 1970. He promised not to conduct a sham religious Indian ceremony where he put a hex on the other team, but he would not stop being the “Stanford Indian.” It was like his whole life was taken up with doing his stupid dances after each Stanford touchdown. More specifically, he dressed up in Plains Indian regalia, with the full headdress, the buckskin shirt and pants, and moccasins. The problem was he was a Yurok Indian from northern California. The Yuroks have never had a tradition of wearing Plains Indian headdresses.

However, he would not agree to give up being the Stanford mascot altogether. It took a vote of the Student Senate, with the administration sitting on its hands and mostly doing nothing, to make the change happen. The vote by the Student Senate was 18 to 4 to drop the Indian mascot. Richard Lyman, the president, did not object.
Comment:  Funny how a Yurok Indian was so adamant about defending his stereotypical Plains costume and dance. I guess the attention and applause were more important to him than doing the right thing.

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

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