The National Collegiate Athletic Association and the State of North Dakota have settled the lawsuit brought against the Association by the state and the University of North Dakota regarding the NCAAs 2005 policy prohibiting Native American mascots and imagery at its championships.
Under terms of the agreement, the University of North Dakota will have three years to obtain namesake tribe approval for its nickname and related imagery from both the Spirit Lake Tribe and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the two Sioux tribes with significant presence in the state.
How do you feel about the settlement between North Dakota and the NCAA and the Native American mascot issue?
- All Native American mascots and imagery should be prohibited
- There should never have been any restrictions
- Leave it up to the namesake tribes
All Native American mascots and imagery should be prohibited
I went to Radnor High School, home of the Radnor RAIDERS, and our mascot is a Native American, as seen below. I never really thought much about it until I went to college and the issue became a topic in one of my sociology classes. At the beginning of the class, very few people had strong opinions on the debate either way, but by the end that changed. We watched a video that followed one woman's story and her fight to stop Native American mascots from being used. She was Native American and a professor at a college where a Native American mascot had been used for over a century. The mascot was shown dancing around pretending to be a Native American, but in reality was far from the truth and disgraced the professor and her ancestry. Her children were shown crying because they were so confused and were too young to understand. All they saw was a white male dressed up, mocking and degrading them. The teacher then got threats through the mail and over the phone and that's when I really made up my mind and I have a very strong opinion about it now. I believe all schools should be forced to change their mascots if they are offensive to a large group of people and they are, so case closed in my mind. I loved being a Radnor Raider, but its just a name...I can do without the name and the mascot and my experience will still be the same.
I went to Dartmouth College, where the debate over the Indian symbol has raged since it was removed during the 1970s. Conservative students (typically affiliated with the right-wing Dartmouth Review newspaper) were adamant that the Indian symbol was noble, traditional (and I have to add that it's a heck of a lot better than "The Big Green"). The rallying cry was "Wah-Hoo-Wah!" -- the cheer from earlier in the century, apparently. Opponents cited the racism inherent in the symbol. My father, an alum from 1949, would get incensed over the debate. Liberal students (typically those building shanties on the college green to protest the school's investment in South Africa) were adamant that the symbol was racist and demeaning -- particularly at a school ostensibly created to educate local Native Americans in New Hampshire.
On closer inspection, picking sides is not so cut-and-dried. Numerous Native American tribes/nations have endorsed the use of Indian symbols (consider Chief Osceola at Florida State and that school's relationship with the Seminole nation). I remember a story about a First Nation Canadian who was drafted to play for the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks, who said he was proud of the team's symbol. At the same time, numerous tribes/nations are opposed. And in Dartmouth's case, it turns out that the Indian symbol was the creation of a sportswriter in the 1930s.
By the time I'd graduated -- and certainly nowadays -- I was of the "Wah-Who-Cares?" mentality. Is Chief Osceola, Chief Illiniwek (Illinois) or the North Dakota Fighting Sioux offensive? Depends on who you ask. What about the Chicago Blackhawks or the Washington Redskins? Depends on who you ask. How about the mocking visage of Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians? Again, depends on who you ask.
What I find more offensive than what logo a team has on its jersey is the fact that NCAA -- as dysfunctional an organization as there exists on this planet -- feels they can unilaterally decide what is and isn't proper. What's offensive is that a bunch of self-righteous academics who are as Native American as me (which is to say: not at all) -- on the local level at Dartmouth and nationally at the NCAA -- arbitrarily decide what is and isn't right. Who the hell are they to say?
I believe a Native American symbol can be respectful -- but I'm not Native American so it's not for me to say. But since there are Native Americans who favor such symbolism and also those opposed, let the individual schools/states decide. Let the NCAA worry itself with student-athletes for a change.