Lenawee, Tecumseh, Indians: Drawing Three Deep in Michigan
I believe that this process of Indian place-naming ties into broader issues of myth-making and identity in American history. From the earliest days of our young Republic, Americans have used the Indian as a proxy to authenticate their claim to this landscape and define themselves as Americans. Indian place names inherently bring with them all the popular notions and qualities of "Indianness"--the same qualities we want in ourselves and our land.
The same is true with mascots. People choose Indian mascots not because they are "honoring Native Americans" but rather to invoke that very essence of Indianness (or at least one version of it). That means strength, honor, pride, and a "savage" nature perfectly suited for the football field. The problem with these mascots is that they perpetuate one-dimensional stereotypes and undermine the ability of American Indian Nations to portray accurate and respectful images of their culture, spirituality, and traditions.