Native Americans

When we are young, we are taught to treat everyone equally. Naturally, as children you learn and apply and hope that another person does the same. Rights, they are basic and unalienable to all humans upon entering a foreign or country of citizenship. Fighting for equal treatment to the prominent race has created history that is left for future activist to involve themselves with past history, and revive movements. Equal treatment amongst the different cultures is necessary for the social and political success for this country. As citizens of a country, we expect that the melting pot of cultures to be civil with one another and the representation of cultures be positive. But what happens when a native from the North American country is targeted through sports? Sports: physical active games, fan filled, entertaining to the public, and usually represented by an object. The typical sports mascot varies between an animal, historical figures to a fictional character. To the public, some mascots that have a positive outlook since they are just “things” representing a game; to the observational public there are some mascots that have a demeaning aspect. In the case of the use of Native Americans to represent a team, it is offensive and controversial due to the accumulated years of racism and violence against them, and there must be a change for the progressive society. This dissection of the negative history, the controversy of the issue, the opposing defense, and how this affects the Native American community are important to further analyze the problem. 
 The first settlers in the United States are Native Americans. Fighting for hierarchy and they once roamed nomadically, searching for peace and sanity. Seeking equality from the white man took years of war and blood shed. To be only disgraced because of their “incompetence” to being American. Having a tumultuous background, the Native American history in itself should be respected, but there seems to be a nuisance doing so. In the 1830’s, after removal policy failed to prevail, “not only did individual Indians remain, but native communities also struggled over the next century and a half to carve out a place for themselves in the South”(Perdue 3). Native American’s were challenged to find a place in the idealistic society, but their ritualistic culture was not fit for the United States. Further on, they dealt with poverty, discrimination, and violence against their community. 
 The history of discrimination against the Native American community has been very controversial. For over 129 years, discrimination has been widely noticed specifically in the sport community. From the racial slur of “redskins” or the identification of the Native American like in the Cleveland Indians baseball team, Chief Wahoo; the wide range of the identifications towards Native American causes an uproar in the educated community. In “Multicultural Training Intervention To Address American Indian Stereotypes,” Matthew and Jesse Steinfeldt, conducted psychological and qualitative research to illustrate the damage profiling causes in the Native American community by using other race examples to put manners in perspective. “Redskin is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as an “offensive slang [word that is used as] a disparaging term for a Native American” (Redskin, n.d.)” (Steinfeldt 27). With the dictionary stating the obvious offensive term, then why do people continue to use it if for over 129 years, discrimination has been widely noticed specifically in the sport community? According to Steinfeldt, the history can be dated back to the colonial times, where the dehumanizing practice of scalping “of Indian women, children, and men (i.e., red skins) were exchanged for bounty and were bought and sold at trading posts along with beaver pelts and other animal hides” (Steinfeldt 27). The scalps of humans were sold with animals, this act is truly degrading, and people yet do not understand the demeaning aspect of this issue. History has great impact on progression, but slurs only allow people to regress and forget the pains of others. Allowing racial slurs only intensifies the issue, and the normalization of them allows people to feel freely about them. This makes slurs become more viable in everyday conversation and further move its way up to sports. 
 Sports have great impacts upon people. The emotions felt throughout a game can be seen through a fan’s eyes and gestures. Those who are attached to sports and seek it as a gateway, and do not see much importance to the mascot representing the team since players are the ones they seek. With sports, money is always involved and revenue comes from all areas of game; from ticket sales, gear, and food. “Looking Back To A Future End: Reflections On The Symposium On Racist Stereotypes In American Sport At The National Museum Of The American Indian,” Richard King, took his observations from a conference and analyzed why people are unaware about sports mascots, the business politics of sports, and further demonstrated the affects these mascot have toward the Native American community. According to King, “The professional football franchise in our nation’s capital does not want to hear any of this, of course. The ownership and some number of its fans remain resistant not only to change but also to dialogue. No representative of the team attended the symposium” (King 140). Instances like these, are why the sports community remain negligent of all changes in society. King associates this as “a classic case of interest convergence,” where all the media friendly companies, networks, and “the NFL” work together and no matter how negative the mascot is business will always win, and encourage the feasible mind (King 139). Money and fans run everything, but it is our job as citizens to halt the negative connotative accepting mind.

Fans have reasons why they like Native Americans representing a team. They see no harm done, and plenty do not see the damage done and think it gives a team a positive outlook. Todd Callais author of “Controversial Mascots: Authority And Racial Hegemony In The Maintenance Of Deviant Symbols,” provides research and theory to why there is still ongoing debate to the Native American, specifically Chief Wahoo, Cleveland’s baseball team’s mascot, and supports his research with various examples. According to Callais, “Over the past 125 years a number of college and professional athletic teams have taken on official or colloquial names for Native American groups to represent their sports teams” (Callais 62). Chief Wahoo, mascot of the Cleveland Indians, has received a lot of negative attention. History of the Indians began with the supposed commemoration of the first Native American baseball player whom played with Cleveland, Louis Sockalexis (Callais 63). To many, this name “in a way designed to be honorable, it is highly unlikely that this suggestion for this reason would win the hearts of many Americans in 1915(Prochaska 2001; Staurowsky 1998, 2001)” (Callais 63). But plenty did not know that Louis Sockalexis had a name change, but what it was not that that got him to fame but “his racial status and the social context at the time (only 20 years removed from the Indian Wars)” (Callais 63). In terms in how the mascot is represented, Steinfeldt analyzes the overall appearance. “Caricatured images use exaggerated facial features that bear little human resemblance, yet these images inundate society with bigoted misrepresentations of the depicted group (King, 2004)” (Steinfeldt 26). The exaggeration of facial features allows people to identify other races in such manner. For example, there are people who associate Asian’s with small, and stretched eyes. Now imagine an Asian caricatured; from the color of their skin to their eyes will be exaggerated, as an observer, that example would be racist. Example of other races allows people to associate the example with their own. Furthermore, Dana Williams, author of “Where’s The Honor? Attitudes Toward The “Fighting Sioux,” similarly approaches this issue with the University of North Dakota’s mascot, the “Fighting Sioux.” Williams applied others research and came to terms to why students depended on their race support their mascot. “White population supporting a Native American nickname—be explained? One of the most common story lines about the nickname offered by White supporters is: “It’s intended as an honor because Native people were brave fighters” (Williams 441). Notice the use of “were,” is this because they are no longer fighters and comply to the societal rules and were pushed away from all freedom forcefully? When students were asked about Chief Wahoo, “Fenelon (1999) studied attitudes of people living in North East Ohio towards the Cleveland Indians[…]over half of the Whites surveyed found the use of Wahoo inoffensive and “either refuse [to acknowledge] or cannot see that Native Americans do” (p. 36)” (Williams 440). The white population of University of North Dakota and elsewhere only sees what they are taught but on the other side of the spectrum lies the Native American population. It further exemplifies how the constant use of Native Americans and their supposed description shows how knowledgable people from various ends of the spectrum are aware. Being brave is not negative, but the history behind why they fought is not acknowledge enough for people to see the negative connotation. Negative characteristics affect the Native American mind and spirit.

Targeting a specific group of people is discrimination, and there is psychological damage. To the Native American population there appears to be a dramatic impact to the issue. It is not only adults who are noticing the underlying issue, but the progressive society is too. Williams again, makes an important point about the damges. “The American Psychological Association (APA, 2005) has determined that “the continued use of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by school systems appear to have a negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian children” (p. 1), an impact that may negatively affect life chances. Social–psychological research has demonstrated that Native logos harm Native youth in a variety of ways (Fryberg, 2003). When presented with such imagery, Native youth exhibited decreased self-esteem, lowered self-efficacy, and diminished perception of their potential achievement. Ironically, the use of same imagery increased the self-esteem of White youth” (Williams 439). What more will it take for the rest of society to see the harm this does to our youth and the Native American community? The progressive mind is seeking ways to change, but hardcore sports fans and millionaires see nothing but fun and money. Our society will never a change if this research is not widely presented. As much as minorities will try to change, it will have to take a man or women with a strong hand to allow a cavity for change. It is not fair for the developing Native American child to see their people further struggling for equality in the country that was once theirs, but now have to fight for the discrepancy between the true meaning of being a free American and a slave. Transformation is the key to success in the search for equality. 
 The struggle for change moves into our up and coming generations. As progressive thinkers it is our goal to fight for others whom are considered weak in our society or who need others to help them change. Research has allowed these issues to come about and academically show others the need for change. As a minority, I do see inequalities set forth in this country towards my people, and myself just because of the color of my skin and history. We have basic rights in this country just like any Anglo in the United States. Economical, societal rank, and history should not define a person because those who define people for what they look like only allows ignorance speak through their actions and representations. Callais, King, Perdue, Steinfeldt, and Williams opened minds with their research and I can only agree with their findings. Williams specifically, allowed me to further understand this issue as whole with information from the APA. I my point of view, Native Americans represented as mascots with negative slurs or by tribe names should be eradicated, and their positive history should be acknowledged. Native Americans and observers are slowly changing their oppressors views, and hopefully soon it will reach the intellectual and business mind of an important citizen in this country.

Works Cited

Callais, Todd M. “Controversial Mascots: Authority And Racial Hegemony In The Maintenance Of Deviant Symbols.” Sociological Focus 43.1 (2010): 61-81. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

King, C. Richard. “Looking Back To A Future End: Reflections On The Symposium On Racist Stereotypes In American Sport At The National Museum Of The American Indian.” American Indian Quarterly 38.2 (2014): 135-142. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

Perdue, Theda. “The Legacy Of Indian Removal.” Journal Of Southern History 78.1 (2012): 3-36. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.

Steinfeldt, Jesse A., and Matthew Clint Steinfeldt. “Multicultural Training Intervention To Address American Indian Stereotypes.” Counselor Education & Supervision 51.1 (2012): 17-32. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.


Williams, Dana M. “Where’s The Honor? Attitudes Toward The “Fighting Sioux” Nickname And Logo.” Sociology Of Sport Journal 24.4 (2007): 437-456. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.


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