January 30, 2010

Stilwell votes to keep ugly mascot

Stilwell Public Schools’ board votes to keep Tommy Tomahawk

By Christina Good VoiceStilwell High School will keep its mascot, Tommy Tomahawk, after its board of education voted 3-2 to reinstate the mascot at a special meeting on Jan. 25 in the school’s gym.

School officials received complaints from people about the new mascot after a photo of it ran in the Jan. 13 issue of a local newspaper. The photo showed the mascot with a large head, long black hair in braids and exaggerated American Indian facial features such as a scowl, large nose and bushy eyebrows. It was dressed in a fake buckskin shirt and leggings.
The anti-mascot position:[B]oard president Eli Pumpkin said the mascot was “ugly” and agreed with Johnson’s comments on a compromise.

“I’m from this community, and I’ve got a lot of calls from Native Americans in this district and they’ve certainly been offended,” he said. “I think we could’ve done a better job with what we picked. I think we made him look awful ugly.”
The pro-mascot position:CN citizen Troy Littledeer said he sees the issue as a Stilwell resident, not as a Native American.

“It was a community matter, and when I spoke I mentioned this may not be a winnable argument,” Littledeer said. “What some people find offensive, others will not. I’m in favor of the vote, only because it upholds the community and the interest of the students. I know they worked hard; they deserve the reward for their hard work.”
Comment:  It took "hard work" to choose a random Indian costume from an online store? I could've gone through my collection of Indian mascot images and picked an equally stupid stereotype in five minutes. Odds are it would've been just as representative of Stilwell's Cherokee population as "Tommy Tomahawk" is.

For more on the subject, see Cherokee School Chooses "Tommy Tomahawk" and Team Names and Mascots.

Below:  "Stilwell High School's mascot, Tommy Tomahawk, made an appearance at a Jan. 26 pep assembly after the school's board voted 3-2 to reinstate it." (Photo by Christina Good Voice)

"Me thank'um school for choosing ugly savage like me. School must be full of ugly savages too. Why else they vote'um for me?"


mamahen said...

I think what Troy meant by "work Hard" is the students raised the money for the mascot through fundraisers. The students are 70% native american and to have an indian mascot is quite common here. There are at least 3 schools in this area with the name "Indians." Not saying it is right. Stilwell is the only school that has a manifestation of a cartoon like character the others mostly just use the name. It's a shame the students weren't guided better in their decision, however the students didn't know any better, sadly most of the adults didn't know any better either. I hope it is okay I added your page to a list of links about TT. www.stilwellonline.com click on sports

Rob said...

Troy Littledeer's point was that the student's "hard work" justified keeping Tommy Tomahawk. If we're talking only about the hard work of raising money, fine. Keep the money but spend it on a more fitting mascot. That would recognize the students' hard work but avoid the ugly stereotypes.

P.S. Yes, it's okay to link to this posting.

Rob said...

A comment received via e-mail:

Mr. Schmidt,

Stilwell High School in Stilwell, Oklahoma has an enrollment of over 70% Native American students. They are PROUD to be called "Stilwell Indians!" They have an overwhelming sense of who they are and what they want to accomplish in the future!

They believe in the forgiveness of past transgressions against their ancestors! They know they will never forget the past, nor do they want to, but they want to be the generation that helps their people move forward and make their Nations stronger, be it the Cherokee Nation, The Creek Nation, etc.

It was a unanimous vote on the mascot by the students. And we all know that the mascot is not the big issue here. But I am proud that our students have the insight to see that. In the future, we are sure that we will have to discontinue using "Tommy Tomahawk" because of narrow mindedness but our students will continue fighting for their rights and for the PRIDE of their school, the "Stilwell INDIANS"!

Thanks for your time and this is in no way meant to be disrespectful to the opposition. It is just an explanation of what so many have refused to listen to.

Shelley Marshall

Rob said...

I don't think I've ever criticized a sports team for using the name "Indians," Shelley. Without a stereotypical logo or mascot, the name is relatively innocuous.

The issue critics raised is Tommy Tomahawk, the ugly and stereotypical mascot. You yourself say that Stilwell probably will have to discontinue it. If that's the case, why did the students vote for it? Didn't they realize it would offend people, including Indians in the Stilwell community?

It sounds pretty dumb to vote for a mascot you know will be unpopular and objectionable. I'm waiting for an explanation of this seemingly senseless act. Why did Stilwell vote for a scowling savage? If the Native students wanted to honor their heritage, why not vote for a genuine hero like Sequoyah?

Rob said...

Shelley continues:

It wouldn't matter if he was Adonis like...some people are always going to look for the negatives in everything. The students exercised their rights in democracy and feel great about it.

Red, yellow, black and white, they are precious in our sights! "Tommy" is beautiful because he is the heart and soul of these great kids.

Rob said...

It's not hard to find negatives in an ugly, stupid, stereotypical mascot. What's hard is to find anything positive about it.

The heart and soul of Stilwell's kids is a tomahawk-wielding savage? Are these kids also thugs and killers? If so, keep them away from me, please.

The students exercised their democratic rights, and I exercised my democratic right to criticize them. If you're happy with my highlighting their immaturity and ignorance, so am I.

Wes said...

This is a sports mascot. It's supposed to be scowling, angry, and warlike. I mean the Eagles mascot is not a majestic bald eagle, it's a menacing cartoon bird. The Pirates? You know what is becomming stereotypical of Native Americans? Gambling and Tobacco. Where is the controversy with Native American groups contributing to such addictive behavior. Oh, that's right money is involved. That shuts most people up.

Rob said...

The majority of Indian mascots are staring stoically or smiling. Not that many are scowling or acting unpleasantly. That's in keeping with the pretense that schools are "honoring" Indians for their dignity and nobility.

Many mascots represent the entire school, not just the sports teams. They represent the school at all times, not just at sporting events. How is a scowing Indian appropriate for a marching band, a bake sale, or a senior prom?

Thousands of teams have mascots that aren't "scowling, angry, and warlike." Such mascots aren't a requirement and they aren't even that common. If the Los Angeles Lakers can win championships without a warlike mascot, I guess the Stilwell Indians can too.

In short, you're just making up excuses for the ugly stereotypes. And you haven't acknowledged that they are ugly stereotypes. So go ahead and say it. Repeat after me: "Tommy Tomahawk stereotypes Indians as scowling savages."

Anonymous said...

well the issue here is simple, some were offended and some weren't, I hear a lot about tradition here, but yet I see casino's being built, I see Indian homes being built, and I see lot's of native American's who claim to have pride running around looking for a hand out. Although they do have a voice, so do the rest of us too, and that was voted on during the school board session.
I Live in Stilwell and have all my life, Not one time have I saw anyone in the wintertime, go start there pony on a cold day and let it warm up for a warm ride to town, I have not saw 1 teepee since I have lived here, I did not know that traditional Indian's had cell phones, and lived in houses, and had all the comforts of "The White Man", but yet you take a group of kids who are native american and tell them if you want something in life you have to earn it and work for it, the first thing the opposition does is try to stop it. I am a working Native American myself, and I see nothing wrong with the mascot, nor the hard work the kids put into it, and if the public was so concerned about it, they should be involved more in there own community with the kids teaching them the cultures.

Rob said...

Anonymous, your response is a non sequitur. You ignored the key point: that Tommy Tomahawk is an ugly, stupid, stereotypical mascot.

Next time, try addressing the issue you so adroitly dodged. Your "feelings" about the mascot don't change the fact that it's stereotypical.