List of Sports Team Names and Mascots Derived From Indigenous Peoples

List Of Sports Team Names And Mascots Derived From Indigenous Peoples

There is considerable controversy over these team names and mascots because various activist groups, including some of American Indian background, view them as disrespectful and offensive. Most notably, the National Congress of American Indians has issued a resolution opposing continued usage of Native team names, mascots, and logos. Some tribal entities have issued resolutions opposing usage as well. Conversely, certain tribes have granted permission to use their names for sports teams, as in the case of the Chippewa and Seminole tribes for Central Michigan University and Florida State University, respectively.

According to a 2002 Sports Illustrated article (Price, S.L. "The Indian Wars", March 4, 2002, pp 66–72), 83% of American Indian respondents to a Sports Illustrated poll said that professional teams should not stop using Indian nicknames, mascots, or symbols.

Some have challenged the Sports Illustrated findings. In a collaborative review (based on discussions between 30 scholars on numerous listserves sponsored by the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport and Society for American Indian Literature) published in the Journal of Sport & Social Issues, King, et al. (2002) argue that (1) the SI poll is problematic because it serves to distract readers from the history and implications of mascots; (2) the survey features problematic sampling, and identification issues produce non-representative and un-generalizable findings (for example, Snipp (1992) writes of the difficulty involved in any quantitative research on American Indians in national polling); (3) SI decontextualizes mascots and the controversy about them; (4) the article discussing the poll concludes that mascots are unproblematic merely because a majority of polled Native people say they are, thus discounting the validity of a critical minority; finally, (5) the consequences for public debate and social justice are ignored by the poll, which treats the issue as critically as SI treats sports injuries or debate over which teams will make the playoffs.

Specifically, King et al. point to the prominence of FSU's Chief Osceola mascot in sports culture while few sports fans know anything of his historic namesake, who was actually captured by the U.S. military under the pretense of a supposed truce negotiation during the real "Indian Wars". The real Osceola died 3 months after his capture and was decapitated postmortem. His possessions were taken as relics by U.S. soldiers, as was his head (after it was embalmed). None of this history is discernible from the pageantry and stereotypical imagery used in sports, which serves to trivialize the names and figures sports culture has appropriated.

There is a doubleness about these Indian names, remarking the existence of Native Americans while relegating them to the past, appearing to bestow honor on them while cloaking the destructive deeds of Euro-American society —Richard Grounds (2001)

SI is also accused of failing to abide by "accepted journalistic standards and practices" by refusing to reveal information about the methodology used, identification of the subjects interviewed, and other details of their study despite multiple requests after the article was published. As a result, there is no way of knowing: (1) how participants were recruited, (2) how they were contacted, (3) if they were concentrated in one region, (4) if one ethnic group is overrepresented, or (5) the exact wording and order of questions.

The small sample size of the SI poll and its unknown methodology are of especial relevance given the numerous similar surveys that have found varying results:

  1. In July 1997, USA Weekend asked its readers “What is your opinion about changing a sports team’s mascot because it offends Native Americans?” Visitors could vote in support of changing or keeping such mascots and submit a reaction to the ongoing controversy. Of those who came to the site, 2,419 participated in the quick poll, with 42% voting to change and 58% voting to retain such mascots (see King, in press, for a more complete analysis).
  2. In contrast with this rather informal assessment of public sentiment, the National Spectator Association,an organization serving sports fans,found that 80% of respondents believed that the Cleveland Indians team name should be changed because it is offensive.
  3. James Fenelon (1999) found moreover that Native Americans and Euro Americans exhibited pronounced differences of opinions about the Cleveland mascot Chief Wahoo, with most Whites favoring retention under all circumstances and the majority of Native Americans opposing the mascot.
  4. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Board obtained a similar finding about the team name of Washington's professional football team. Neither the general public nor Native Americans are of one mind on the subject. Stapleton (2001, pp.26-27) reported that a survey conducted for the case showed that 46% of the general public (n = 301) and 37% of American Indians (n = 358) found “Redskin”to be an offensive term. Independently, Stapleton (2001) also studied the opinions of fans (n = 28) and Native Americans (n = 32) with Web sites: although 96% of the fans opposed changing the team name, 72% of indigenous peoples favored the name change (pp. 62-64).
  5. In March 2001, Joseph Kolb (2001) reported the findings of a University New Mexico at Gallup poll of 458 Native Americans. The results were similar to those published in SI: 25% felt honored, 21% were not offended, 18% were partially offended, 6% were very offended, and 23% did not care; in turn, 11% found mascots to be very harmful, 27% thought they were partially harmful, 51% believed they were not harmful, and 10% did not care.
  6. Later that same year, Indian Country Today (ICT) (2001) published results of its survey of its American Indian Opinion Leaders, a group of self-selected Native Americans who offer feedback to the newspaper on issues of importance.In contrast with SI’s findings, respondents overwhelmingly held critical views of mascots and their implications: 81% found them to be “offensive and deeply disparaging”; 10% thought names and mascots were respectful; 73% believed they fostered a hostile environment; 75% agreed that they were a violation of antidiscrimination laws, and 69% indicated that funds should be withheld from schools with Native American mascots.

— King et al., Of Polls and Race Prejudice: Sports Illustrated's Errant "Indian Wars", Journal of Sport and Social Issues, vol. 26, November 2002.

On the other side of the debate, there are those who cite statistics from a 2005 Washington Post article that argues that a large majority of ethnically Native Americans are not at all offended by "Indian" mascots. The article even claims that some are proud of this mascot names. Some examples used are the Southeastern Oklahoma State University's Savages being endorsed by the Chief of the Choctaw Nation, and the endorsement of the Florida State Seminoles by the Seminole Tribe. In 2009, enrolled tribal members on the Spirit Lake Sioux reservation in North Dakota voted two-to-one to support the continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname by the University of North Dakota.

Read more about List Of Sports Team Names And Mascots Derived From Indigenous Peoples:  Mascots, Fictional Teams, "Chief" Nickname

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