Natives should not be team mascots

Across America, teams such as the “Warriors,” “Chiefs” and “Redskins” are using stereotypical Native American names and faces as mascots. However, nowhere do African American or Asian men or women represent a team, school, group, etc. The term “Redskins” is equally as discriminative as an African American man being referred to as a “jigaboo,” which includes stereotypical African features, including dark skin, wide nose, etc., or a Mexican or Hispanic man or woman being called a “wetback,” or “border-hopper.” Discrimination in any form is wrong, and Native Americans should not be used as mascots without regard to natives themselves.
Some people might view this as another race wanting to create an issue over social inequality, but the problem is that Native American people are overlooked. If African Americans were objectified as mascots, people and media would lash out. Others may see the use of Native Americans as mascots as a source of pride and appreciation to Native American people, even showing them as a proud representation of strength and respect. However, this would only be true if and when organizations worked with the people they are trying to represent.

Native people were here before America became “America.” According to some, Christopher Columbus got lost trying to find India, then when stopping on land, encountered people with a darker pigment of skin, whom he named “Indians.” However, the “Indians” he was referring to already identified themselves by their tribal names, such as Sioux, Cree, Blackfoot, Lakota, etc.  Later on, since the native people were native to America, they began to be called “Native American(s)” or by Columbus’ other term, “Indians.” Although many people today continue using the term “Native American,” many of these people would be content with the simple term “native.” Many native people do not support sports teams, groups, associations or schools using them as mascots without the consent of tribal members. To Native Americans, native Chiefs are strong leaders, often looked at with great respect. To use symbols such as a chief or a large-nosed native man wearing a headdress is extremely disrespectful because those images are of great importance to native people.

A Native American movement that went unnamed for nearly 500 years is known today as the American Indian Movement (AIM). This movement focuses on remembering the history of the ancestors that allowed the native people to live today, through their great struggle. From the beginning, some AIM members thought Native Americans were never meant to survive, and that America was set out to kill their people. Now, however, members stand strong with proud representation of their heritage. The AIM is one Native American organization that stands to stop unequal treatment of natives throughout the United States of America, Canada and Central and South America by bringing on federal suits for governments around the Americas. Members of the AIM also disagree with Native Americans being mascots because it is unfair to their race of people. It is inequality.

On a more personal level, an incident occurred with a local business when my uncle, Justin Stinnitt-Ortega, went to purchase a few items, and the business worker referred to him as “Chief.” That is a discriminatory stereotype. This might have been meant as a joke, but no one should put racial labels on a person, when the Declaration of Independence states that, “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Being discriminated against does not lead to a path of happiness.

If using a native mascot is for pride, the representatives of that group should take a look into the background of native people to see what terms they would like to be represented by, or if they would like to be used as a representation of the organization at all. In the most common probability, native people would be proud to be considered as a symbol of strength and power, but using “Redskins” or having the Cleveland Indians use “Chief Wahoo,” a red-skinned native man, as a mascot is wrong and disrespectful. Native Americans have been misunderstood and mislabeled since the beginning of this country and their false representation should not be put all over billboards and stadiums, due to discrimination. Native American mascots should be done away with if they discriminate in any way, shape or form.