Indian Advocate Pushes to Abolish Racist Mascots

Laberge, Mike. "Indian Advocate Pushes to Abolish Racist Mascots Coalition Leader Brings Crusade to Colby Audience," Bangor Daily News (Bangor,Maine), 1 November 1999.

"WATERVILLE: The movement to abolish American Indian images in athletics began with a mother's simple, handwritten sign: "American Indians are human beings, not mascots.

" Charlene Teters, a Spokane Indian, began protesting the use of a figure known as "Chief Illiniwek" at the University of Illinois, after watching her teenage children cringe as the mascot performed at a basketball game.

The protest drew threats and harassing phone calls -- but it also caught the attention of leaders of the American Indian Movement, who rushed to Teters' support.

Ten years later, Teters has become a leading advocate in the fight to end what she calls the "genocide" of American Indian culture. "To those people who want to trivialize this issue: Racism is never trivial," Teters, a founding member of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, told a Colby College audience Saturday evening.

To appreciate why gestures such as the tomahawk chop performed by Atlanta Braves baseball fans outrage many American Indians, you first must understand the racial and social injustices they have endured, Teters said ... "I never wanted to be considered an activist leader," she said. "Really, what I wanted to do was be a good community member, be a good mother".

News reports of the controversy over the mascot caught the attention of Vernon Bellecourt, a leader of the American Indian Movement. He quickly came to her aid and, in doing so, helped to launch a crusade.

The experience, she said, politicized her ... "I consider it a continuation of the Indian wars," she said of her fight. "It is happening within classrooms, courtrooms and corporate boardrooms." ...

"There is a connection between our culture being held hostage and the hopelessness that some of our young people feel," Teters said."
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