Last week, the University of Utah Athletics Department posted a video starring director Chris Hill. In the video, the director asks viewers to discuss the University of Utah’s logo, which is an image of a drum and feathers, in order to ascertain whether or not the imagery is offensive. The Ute team name was taken from the Ute Indian Tribe and has been the name of athletics teams at the university since 1972.
In the video, Dr. Hill asks viewers to list “some of the things that may be offensive and upsetting in a religious and a sacred way to many of our Indian friends.” He affirms that the mascot will not be changing for the University of Utah but his concern is with displays of team spirit and costuming for sporting events. Participants have been known to wear feathers and to paint their faces to reflect the theme.
After only a couple thousand views, Youtube viewers were already diverging on whether or not the Ute mascot is offensive. One viewer said:
Is the U of U compensating them or is this more of the same, taking freely from and misappropriating indigenous cultures? If so, I hope the Ute Tribal Council reconsiders and take [sic] back their intellectual property.
On the other end of the spectrum, another viewer stated:
This is great. I love the chance you are giving the fans to be a part of the conversation. As for the logo, I feel that it should never be changed and in my opinion I would love to see it used more. It would be pretty rad to see the drum & feather logo in the middle of the basketball court in the Huntsman Center! I have never heard of anyone being offended or seen people offended by the logo as long as I have lived, but I am not native american either. All I hear is great support!
A surprisingly high number of comments suggested that the logo and the imagery aren’t offensive because people know it’s “not supposed to be” offensive. ColorLines Magazine makes the point that less than 1 percent of the student population at the University of Utah is of American Indian descent.
Although the thought of the video holds some merit, it remains unclear exactly how any offensive costumes or traditions would be disciplined or controlled even if the majority of viewers understood why and how co-opting Native American imagery would be offensive. Judging by the comments the video garnered in its first four days on Youtube, it also seems highly unlikely that the overall student population will urge a drastic change in the mascot, name, or imagery used by the university’s teams.
Photo Credit: Daderot
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.