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Utah’s Athletic Director Asks Viewers If Native American Logo Is Offensive (Video)

Utah’s Athletic Director Asks Viewers If Native American Logo Is Offensive (Video)

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.

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68 comments

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12:02AM PST on Nov 8, 2013

I really liked the logo you design but the colour should be more attractive to get your audience attracted in such a way that everyone should like this logo design. www.logofirms.com/logodesignpros.php

1:02AM PDT on Sep 2, 2012

Thanks for the information.

10:54AM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

Jan, your point is well taken and you are right it is hard to convey inflection in a discussion post. ; )

8:15AM PDT on Sep 1, 2012

Kevin B., My apologies. I didn't mean it to sound as if I was attacking you. Inflection is impossible to convey in text.

I'll try again, but please keep in mind I'm trying to convey an idea, not attack you.

You keep referring to Florida State's example ( which is great that in that case it worked for the Seminoles) as if because it worked there, it should be easy to resolve elsewhere.

I think the point trying to be made here is that there is an overall disrespect for Native tribes and coming to ask the question after using their cultural symbols for years is like 'do it first, then ask permission'. My impression is that even when institutions ask the question later, as in this case, they didn't direct it to the Ute, but to 'viewers'. It is a step in the right direction but tribes are weary of the fight to be treated fairly.

'Viewers' may have no idea how disrespectful the using of cultural symbols feels to tribes. Ignorance has its own blinders. As has been the case from the beginning, few colonists/white Americans ever tried to understand the tribe's point of view and just made up stuff according to what they wanted.

So it's great that Florida seems to have sorted out the issue to most everyone's satisfaction. It just doesn't seem like that is happening elsewhere.

I hope we have no hard feelings here, Kevin.

4:36PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Samantha C.,
I'd agree that "the tribal council " should be questioned IF the Tribal council really speaks for the Ute People. In most cases i know, Tribal Councils often do not represent the people. The only governments the US gov. would work with, are tribal governments that did away with traditional forms of self governing and embraced the USA model selected for them. (pull up Southern Ute Tribal Government and you will see lists of squabbles that read ...strangely like any state or county..competitiveness,suspicion and accusations of abuse of power)
If the Ute tribal members were all allowed a vote on the topic, THEN we might see the opinion of the "people".

4:27PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

noted

3:35PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Jan why are you attacking me because I pointed out an example of things being done right?

3:02PM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Kevin B. I'm glad it worked out in Florida. However, the question here is: were the UTE elders asked and what did they say? (has anyone found out?)

Most Indians I ever talked to or listened to have stated that they see the stealing of their cultural symbols as offensive. 99% of the time they are never asked, it is just taken. It may not be their number one complaint...heaven knows they have more than enough reason to be very angry with the white's centuries of cultural and ethnic cleansing...but they see it as yet another assault on their culture.

Why is that hard for you to understand? Because it worked out in Florida so all tribes should get with the program?

11:34AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

I think asking a non-Native American if the log is offensive is sort of like asking a dog if chasing cats is offensive--the dog would see the situation very differently than the cat..

11:22AM PDT on Aug 31, 2012

Once again I refer to Florida State. When the NCAA questioned their use of the "Seminoles" as their mascot they contacted the Seminole Nation of Florida. The mascot was changed from a sterotypical Indian to a historically accurate Seminole warrior and the school received the full approval of the Seminole nation. The mascot became a historically accurate portrayal of the proud Seminole heritage and a teachable moment.

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