Sports Mascots Dishonor Native Americans

Krol, Debra Utacia. "Sports Mascots Dishonor Native Americans; The Mascots Make a Caricature of Native Culture and Must Be Eliminated," News & Record (Greensboro, NC), October 15, 1999, A15.

"The pressure to stop the use of sports mascots that demean Native Americans continues to grow.

The National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media is gathering at Urbana, Ill., this weekend to campaign for the elimination of Indian mascots and other stereotypes of Native American people.

Urbana is home to the main campus of the University of Illinois, which has one of the most egregious sports mascots, Chief Illiniwek.

Illiniwek doesn't hold a monopoly on Native American mascots, though. For example, there's Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians, who runs about drunkenly at baseball games. Other offensive images include the Washington Redskins' logo and the ''tomahawk chop'' of the Atlanta Braves.

Illiniwek claims to honor the Illini People of the Algonquin confederacy. However, the University of Illinois Web site states that the clothing worn by the mascot is actually Oglala Lakota Sioux traditional garb, made in 1930 by an''older Sioux woman ... and two younger women'' on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Lakota elders reserve the ''war bonnet'' worn by the mascot for only the most honored and spiritual of Sioux leaders and consider it inappropriate for sports events.

Native American leaders, such as Suzan Shown Harjo, who successfully sued the Washington Redskins in 1998 to remove the copyright protection for its logo, have long expressed outrage over this exploitation of Native culture.

''These images should have gone (the way) of the Frito Bandito and Little Black Sambo, both of which disappeared after Hispanics and African Americans came forward to protest,'' says Charlene Teters, a Spokane tribal member and a leader of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media."
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