American Indians vs Sports Mascots

21 Aug

Considering I am going to college online and I have to write essays for my history class, I figured I would post the essay that I just got finished with. It has not been graded yet and I am sure that it probably sucks considering I suck as a writer. It is about the ongoing battle between the American Indians and sports mascots.


“The American Indian community for over 50 years has worked to banish images and names like Cleveland’s chief wahoo, Washington redskins, Kansas City chiefs, Atlanta braves”.1 The American Indians may not be fighting bloody battles in the name of peace or their homeland, but they are still in a battle none the less. They are battling an assault of insults on their Native peoples. This assault comes by the way of using Indian names and likeness as sport team mascots. I feel their complaints are legit considering it is their race and culture that is being portrayed in a way they feel is wrong. Who am I to say they are wrong about this? It is not my people who are being put on display here and paraded in the public’s eye. The sports teams are wrong and they need to respect the wishes of the American Indians. The Indians have lost many battles that were raged against them. It is time we started to respect their heritage and culture.

There have been many instances where the media has portrayed Indians in a negative way. These ways were meant to encourage the sports teams with Indian names, but they never took into consideration the image that they have portrayed against the Indians. One year New York played against Cleveland and the New York Post put “Take the Tribe and Scalp ‘Em”2 as the headline. This was never meant to be taken as an insult, but so many Indians took it that way. Can you imagine how you would have felt after reading such a headline? I would have been a little insulted myself. This type of behavior is one of the reasons that the American Indians get so offended when mascots are named after them. They are misrepresented in so many ways. Back in 2002 American Indians from the University of Wisconsin-Madison protested the University of Illinois for the use of Indian mascots. “The Madison Indian community has deep concerns about the offensive caricatures of Native peoples in popular culture, particularly within the nation’s educational system”.3 The battle to change how the public views American Indians is a hard one to win unless they can get the image that the sports teams create done away with. This is a hard battle that still rages one.

Even though the battle still rages on, there have been some notable upsets on the American Indian side, such as the case with the Washington Redskins. Resolution 14-262 was passed on November 6, 2001 to change
the team name because it was offensive and hurtful. Unfortunately for the Native Indians, the US Supreme court ruled against them. “The action lets stand a decision by a federal appeals court in Washington that the native Americans had waited too long to bring their challenge to the Redskins trademark, and thus forfeited any right to sue”.4 This was a major blow to the Indian community. A loss that will not bring them down; only motivate them to continue their fight for justice.

Not all outcomes of these battles are unfavorable towards the American Indians. Take Wisconsin for example, they initiated an “End of Native American Mascots in School”. “The law, the first of its kind in the country,
allows the public to file complaints against race-based mascots and the like with school districts”.5 Ever since this law has been in effect there have been a few schools that have dropped their Indian mascots or symbols. Take a school district in Green Bay for example, “On Oct. 8, the Kewaunee School District in the Green Bay area dropped the name “Indians” after a retired teacher named Marsha Beggs Brown complained about the moniker used by the district since 1936”.6 They changed their new name to Storm. There have been about 30 school districts in Wisconsin who have changed their school mascots or symbols due to this law. Even though the American Indian community is not winning them all, they are least winning a few.

As you can see the battle still rages on. The American Indians have been battling this injustice that has been bestowed upon their heritage and community for over 50 years. I foresee this battle lasting even longer. They will not win them all, but at least they will be victorious in some. Only if we could all see it the way they see then we would know how it feels; we would know their pain; we would understand their suffering. The Supreme Court
may not agree with the American Indians, but at least Wisconsin does.


Coalition on Sports and Racism

Coalition on Sports and Racism

3. Bird Bear, Aaron. “American Indians Protest Illinois Mascot” (NAIIP News

4. Richey, Warren. “Washington Redskins can keep team name;
Supreme Court refuses native Americans’ suit” (The Christian Science Monitor,

5. Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Wisconsin Law Initiates End of
Native American Mascots in Schools” (, 2010).

6. Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Wisconsin Law Initiates End of
Native American Mascots in Schools” (, 2010).


Teters, Charlene. “AMERICAN INDIANS ARE PEOPLE, NOT MASCOTS”, National Coalition on Sports and Racism.

Bird Bear, Aaron. “American Indians Protest Illinois Mascot”, NAIIP News Path. (2002),

Richey, Warren. “Washington Redskins can keep team name; Supreme Court refuses native Americans’ suit”, The Christian Science Monitor. (2009),

Nittle, Nadra Kareem. “Wisconsin Law Initiates End of Native American Mascots in Schools”,,

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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


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