Letters to the Pilot

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Reservations about native American names


Last year, the Native American Journalists Association called upon news organizations to stop printing sports mascots and nicknames that depict Native Americans by 2004. I write today on behalf of Grinnell College's Native American Student Association and coalition of Anti-Racist Whites to request that you heed their call.

While many teams have not been progressive enough to change their offensive names or mascots, newspapers across the country have stopped printing these slurs.

Much of the public views efforts to ban racial slurs as team names or mascots as political correctness taken too far. These views do not acknowledge or understand that the name "Chiefs," "Redskins," or "Braves," is deeply offensive to Native American people and to those who actively oppose the perpetuation of racism in our society.

Many argue that the use of Indian mascots is an honor to the people, however 81 percent of Native American people, according to the most widely distributed Native American publication, Indian Country Today, oppose the use of Indian mascots. While the intentions may not be malicious, the effect is clear. Native cultures are dishonored and native people dehumanized by the use of Indian mascots. Mascots are animals or symbols almost across the board. Indians are people, not a joke for a white audience.

Papers that have already taken a stand on this issue include The Minneapolis Star Tribune, which banned the use of all Native team names and mascots in 1994, the Kansas City Star, the St. Cloud Times, the Portland Press Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star all of which limit publication of Native mascots and images in varying ways. I urge you to set a good example for your readers and your peers and cease the printing of racist teams names and mascots as the Native American Journalist Association urges.

Cecilia Olivares

Grinnell College

Native American Student

Organization Coalition of

Anti-Racist Whites