Why Indian Mascots Send the Wrong Message to Kids

Should schools and sports teams promote American Indian mascots? The dominant group says they’re a symbol of “honor,” but many indigenous people, myself included, say they’re offensive and damaging; you’d think that would be enough, but it’s not.

Colorado is trying to change our perception of these mascots, by proposing a bill (House Bill 1165 to be exact) that would prohibit the mascots unless a tribe approves. Unfortunately, the bill is expected to be shot down by the Senate next week.

Both Sides of HB 1165

Under the bill, without the tribe’s approval, schools would have to phase out the mascots within two years or face a hefty fine of $25,000 a month, reports Ivan Moreno from the Associated Press. The Democrats seem on board, while all of the Republicans oppose it.

As a sponsor of the bill, Aurora Rep. Jovan Melton expressed empathy for Colorado’s large American Indian population, particularly the children’s psychological well-being. ”…having to go to a school where your mascot is named after a derogatory name. I can’t even imagine trying to be able to focus under those pressures,” he expressed.

Opponents of the bill don’t seem to care as much about the psychological welfare of American Indians. They argue the bill would waste precious state tax dollars on new signage and negate local autonomy (schools don’t have to be “bossed around”). And with the Senate’s GOP-stronghold, the bill isn’t expected to survive.

Stereotypical, Misleading and Insulting Images

Removing inappropriate American Indian mascots isn’t an abstract, philosophical debate in political correctness. The American Psychological Association (APA) even recommends their retirement. Former APA President, Ronald F. Levant, EdD describes the mascots as devices that teach “stereotypical, misleading and too often, insulting images of American Indians. These negative lessons are not just affecting American Indian students; they are sending the wrong message to all students.”

Mascots featuring American Indians is the continued open and accepted discrimination against American Indians that create hostile and unwelcoming environments. How would you feel if you attended a heated sports event where spectators deride your ancestors? Children are especially affected with lower self-esteems in the inaccurate representations of their culture.

Change the Mascot‘s Proud to Be campaign against the NFL’s Redskins says it all.

3 Better Ways to Honor American Indians

And if we really want to honor American Indians, here are three much better ways that don’t involve derogatory mascots:

1. Let’s do a better job protecting American Indian youth, so they don’t experience PTSD like war veterans.

2. Let’s stop trying to sell sacred American Indian burial grounds to big business.

3. Let’s remove the mascots, and let’s include American Indians as strong threads in the fabric of America’s past and present history in our school curricula.

Take Action!

The Senate is in a unique position to send a strong legal message that could trickle down to society: American Indian mascots are damaging, and they will not be tolerated in spaces designated for learning. Sign and share this petition urging the Senate to support HB 1165 and empower American Indians to reclaim their representation, culture and identity.

Photo Credit: soundfromwayout


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown3 years ago

It is really dependent on the nature of the presentation, I believe. If the mascot is presented in a favorable, respectful, and positive way (for instance, the way the Florida State Seminoles present their historically correct mascot that has been approved by the Seminole Nation of Florida).

On the other hand, you have the professional NFL team from Washington D.C. that uses a racial epitaph as its team name. "Redskins" is a racial slur and is unfavorable, disrespectful, and only historically correct in the racist nature it conveys.

Of course the real problem I have with this bill is that it is censorship. I do not believe in censorship, even if I don't like the message that is being censored.

Crystal G.
Crystal G3 years ago

Complaining = Breathing Air, to Such Indians.

Mina X.
Past Member 4 years ago

Really... "psychological well-being" over a mascot... Sad

Warren Webber
Warren Webber4 years ago

Marc P- the opinions of the few Native Americans you personally meet doesn't trump the majority who disagree. That's lazy & pseudo-scientific stereotyping that doesn't help social causes.

Marc P.
Marc P4 years ago

I'm just saying that if it is a the actual majority of Native Americans that have a problem with this, then let's deal with it. But from my personal experience most Native Americans where I live think the topic is total bullshit. And the ONLY people protesting "Indian" labeling in my area are NOT Native American.

Roslyn McBride
Roslyn McBride4 years ago

I agree with the 3 suggestions in the article about how to honour Native Americans in a much better, and more useful, way.

Marc P.
Marc P4 years ago

Jean W and Pam W.: First, how do you know I am NOT a Native American?????
I live about 8 miles from the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation and about 4 miles from the Mohegan Indian Reservation. (That's right I said Mohegan INDIAN reservation - That's what the native Americans named it themselves.) As for "Are you also fine with the chanting and tomahawk pantomimes....." I just got done having dinner at he Mohegan Sun casino an hour ago and witnessed ALL of that going on within the confines of THEIR casino, run by Native Americans, designed by Native Americans, and WHOLLY OWNED by Native Americans. Being in close proximity of several Reservations, and being a rental property owner and manager of over 160 rental units, I know MANY tribal members, including elders in my community. And having discussed this topic over the years on many occasions I can tell you that there are VERY FEW REAL Native Americans concerned with any of this blather.
Are YOU Native American?????

Jean Wall
Jean Wall4 years ago

ooops- mess up-
it took decades of the descendants of survivors pushing to get the historical marker changed to reflect the character of the event as a massacre and not a battle. Google Cobell Settlement and look at the protracted effort it took to get the government (us, that is) to make good on payments owed to American Indians for leases . Ms. Cobell was relentless and this woman devoted her entire professional life...