Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tennessee Just Can't Give Up Their Pet Indians

Tennessee Just Can't Give Up Their Pet Indians
By Native Village & Ray Levesque

NOTE FROM RAY: Tennessee just can't seem to give up their idea that Indians make good pets. Lots of sports teams used to keep team pets at their colleges and high schools and for many decades, native Americans have been included as pets (or the French word for pet is "mascot" which doesn't sound so demeaning). Next Tuesday, in fact, the Tennessee State Senate is supposed to vote on Senate Bill SB0162. It makes sure that no one in the government will be allowed to interfere with any schools God-given right to have Native American mascots to parade in front of cheering white people at sports events. This very short bill "denies any state agency the authority to prohibit or impair the right of any private or public institution to honor American Indians and the heritage of such through the use of American Indian symbols, names and mascots."

Tennessee, of course, is the starting point of the infamous Trail of Tears, where they rounded up all the Indians into the stockade and marched them out of the state. And today, Tennessee does not recognize any Indian tribes and has no reservations, even though Tennessee was 100 percent native before it was apparently overrun by an invasion of immigrants from someplace where racism is a virtue...

Who are the original people of Tennessee?

Cherokee, Chickasaw, Quapaw, Shawnee, Yuchi, Koasati.

In May 1838, the trail of tears exodus of American Indians began -- in what city? Chattanooga, Tennessee!

In 1879 we were recognized as legal "persons" in the eyes of American federal law.

However, American Indians only became citizens of the United States in 1924.

In 1944, most Indians were finally allowed to vote in all elections.

So in reviewing this timeline, it looks like Tennessee got rid of all us Indians before we were officially declared human beings. Apparently we are still fair game, and make excellent mascots.

I hear that disgraced radio-show host Don Imus is now without a job. Maybe he should move to Tennessee and run for office -- I'm should he would be warmly welcomed there.

Thanks for listening.


A Timeline of the Disappearing Native American Mascots (Courtesy of Native Village)


* National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) launches campaign to address stereotypes found in print and in other media


* NA activists at Dartmouth College continue to promote changes in that school's Indians nickname. replaced soon by Big Green


* University of Oklahoma retires its Little Red mascot that had been traditional since 1940's
* Protests against Cleveland Indians baseball team - Chief Wahoo - take place in Cleveland.


* Marquette University (MI) abandons its Willie Wampum mascot. Prior to the 1994 season, the MU changed Warriors to Golden Eagles.


* A petition by AI students at Stanford University results in the school dropping Indian sports team nickname and logos.
* Dickinson State (ND) changes from the Savages to the Blue Hawks.
* Increasing efforts begun in the 1960's, First Nations students at the University of North Dakota (UND) take steps to retire the school's Fighting Sioux nickname.


* Syracuse University (NY) did away with Saltine Warrior mascot.
* St Bonaventure, NY, retired it's Brown Indians and Brown Squaws sports team mascots.


* Southern Oregon University ends a tradition begun in 1950 when its Red Raiders sports teams cease using several depictions of Indian chiefs as mascots and symbolic logos for sporting events


* The Michigan State Civil Rights commission issues a report on nicknames, logos, and mascots depicting NA people in Michigan education institutions
* Minnesota State Board of Education adopts a resolution stating that "the use of mascots, emblems, or symbols depicting American Indian culture or race (is) unacceptable." and encourages all districts to immediately proceed to remove such mascots.
* Public schools in Wisconsin begin to change their American Indian related sports team logos, mascots, and nicknames. As of 1998, 21 schools - almost 1/3 - of the total using such icons, had changed.
* Siena College in NY drops Indians - are now Saints.
* Saint Mary's college (MN) changes from Red Men to the Cardinals.


* Charlene Teters, NA graduate student attending University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, initiates efforts to eliminate that school's Chief Illiniwek.


* Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs requests 27 public schools in that state to end their use of American Indian names and mascots.
* The National Education Associate (NEA) the largest educational organization of its kind in the world, passes resolutions in 2 consecutive years (91/92) denouncing the use of ethnic related sports team mascots, symbols, and nicknames.
* Eastern Michigan University changes its Huron nickname to Eagles.
* Advocates protest at the Minneapolis Metrodome where Superbowl XXVI found the Buffalo Bills pitted aginst Washington Redskins.


* Seven Native Americans filed a lawsuit against the Washington Redskins football club and petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for cancellation of federal registrations for Redskins and Redskinettes...and associated names of the team in the nation's capital.
* Portland Oregonian announces it will no longer use the word "Redskins" and several other American Indian related terms in print.
* Radio stations WASH and WTOP in Washington DC also adopt similar policies.
* Simpson college, drops its Redmen and Lady Reds to Storm.
* Despite a lawsuit and over 2000 signatures signed in protest, Naperville Central High School (IL) switches its nickname from Redskins to Redhawks. Grand Forks Central High School (ND) changes its sports teams' nickname from Redskins to Knights.


* National Congress of American Indians issues a resolution which "denounces the use of any American Indian name or artifice associated with team mascots."
* Arvada High School, near Denver Col, drops its Redskins sports team nickname


* The State of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction issues a directive "strongly urging" all Wisconsin schools using American Indian related mascots to discontinue such uses.
* Enumclaw Junior High School (WA) dropped its "Chieftain" mascot.
* Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, exchanged it's "Warriors" nickname for "Hawks."
* As a show of appreciate for having changed its "Indian" mascot, Park High school in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, is awarded $10,000 by the Prairie Island Mdewakanton Sioux Community.
* Prior to the 1994-95 season Marquette University retired its "Warriors" nickname in favor of "Golden Eagles."


* St. John's, the largest Catholic university in America, drops its "Redmen" nickname in favor of "Redstorm."


* University of Tennessee at Chattanooga discontinues the use of its "Chief Moccanooga" mascot. The following year the team's "Moccasins" nickname was shortened to "Mocs" in reference to Tennessee's state bird, the Mockingbird.
* Miami University of Ohio (Oxford, OH) drops its "Redskins" nickname.
* The Toronto Bluejays triple-A farm team in Syracuse, NY, heeds concerns expressed by advocates and changes its nickname from the "Chiefs" to the "Skychiefs."
* Hull Western Christian school in Hull, Iowa, is honored by the Sioux City Human Rights Commission for retiring the school's "Indians" mascot/logo.
* In a process that began in 1995, Adams State University (Alamosa, CO) changes its mascot from an "Indian" to a "Grizzly."
* Newtown High School in Sandy Hook, Connecticut drops its "Indians" nickname in favor of the "Nighthawks."
* The United Methodist Church takes an official stance Concerning Demeaning Names to Native Americans as well as on other related topics.
* Fremont High School in Sunnyvale, California, changed its mascot from "Indians" to "Firebirds"
* Students at Hortonville, Wisconsin, adopt a non-recognition policy stating their school will not use cheers, names, etc., related to "Indian" sports team tokens employed by opposing teams.


* Jay Rosenstein's documentary "In Whose Honor" is aired nationally on the Public Broadcasting System TV show "Point of View." Mr. Rosenstein's film highlights Charlene Teters' efforts to eliminate the "Chief Illiniwek" mascot used by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
* The Board of Education for the Los Angeles, California consolidated school district moves to eliminate "Indian" related mascots from four schools in its jurisdiction.
* The minor league Canton-Akron "Indians" rename themselves the Akron "Aeros" and boost their merchandise sales from $60,000 to $1.2 million, the largest merchandise income of any minor league team.


* Yakima College (Washington State) respects concerns expressed by its American Indian community and elects to retire the institution's race-related mascot.
* The Kansas Association for Native American Education (KANAE) issues a resolution that "...calls for the elimination of use of American Indian mascots and logos in all public and private schools in the State of Kansas..."
* The American Jewish Committee approves a statement on team names which notes it "deplores and opposes the use of racial or ethnic stereotypes in the names or titles of business, professional, sport or their public entitles when the affected group has not chosen the name itself."
* Approximately 200 anti-"Indian" mascot activists from around the country converge at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana for the first national Conference on the Elimination of Racist Mascots.
* A federal judge upholds the Los Angles consolidated school board's 1997 decision to eliminate several "Indian" related mascots and nicknames from its district.
* Southern Nazarene University, a small Christian school in Bethany, Oklahoma, retires its "Redskins" nickname in favor of "Crimson Storm."
* New York State Education Department Commissioner directs his staff to undertake a statewide review of public schools using American Indian related sports team tokens.
* Despite personal hardships faced by a White Mountain Apache student and his family, a bitter five year struggle at a public school in Medford, Wisconsin ends victoriously when the school is compelled to drop its "Screaming Indian with Mohawk haircut" logo.
* Oregon's Chemeketa Community College drops its "Chiefs" nickname and selects "Storm" for its new one. Since the 1970s, twenty high schools in Oregon have also changed their "Indian" related nicknames and mascots.
* National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee concludes that "Indian mascots that promote Indian caricatures and mimic ceremonial rites do not comply with the NCAA's commitment to ethnic student welfare."
* Following a complaint made by the program manager for American Indian Education, 10 public schools in Dallas, Texas, make plans to retire their respective "Indian" mascots by the end of the 1998-99 school year.
* Oklahoma City University, a college affiliated with the United Methodist Church, decides to replace its "Chiefs" nickname dating back to 1944.
* Morningside College of Sioux City, Iowa, changes its nickname from the "Maroon Chiefs" to the Mustangs.


* The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council, a consortium of twelve federally recognized Indian tribes, issues a resolution calling for the end of "the use of depictions of and cultural references to American Indians as mascots, logos, and team nicknames in Wisconsin public schools."
* Erwin High school in Asheville, NC is investigated for discrimination by the United States Department of Justice because of its "Indian" related nicknames and mascot.
* A panel in Utah decides that the word "Redskins" is a derogatory term and forbids its use on motor vehicle license plates.
* Citing educational concerns about misinterpretations of the crayon color's name, Crayola announces plans to change "indian red" to something less ambiguous.
* A landmark victory concludes a legal battle begun in 1992 as a three-judge panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rules that the term "Redskins" is a term disparaging to Native Americans and tends to bring them "into contempt or disrepute." The decision has the potential to strip the Washington NFL team of trademark protections.
* Millard South High in Omaha, Nebraska, one of the largest schools in the state, graciously decides to change its "Indians" spirit symbol.
* Following the lead of its Champaign-Urbana branch, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) unanimously approves a second mascot resolution.
* Detailing a number of important points and concerns, The Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs issues a mascot resolution.
* Appalled by the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana's use of a stereotypic "Indian" mascot the prestigious Society for the Study of the Indigenous Languages of the Americas offers a formal position on Illiniwek.
* Following almost ten years of controversy, a high school in Milton, Wisconsin, retires its "Redmen" nickname.
* The U.S. Census Bureau adopts a policy on non-use of Athletic Teams with American Indian or Alaska Native Names in Promoting Census 2000
* In an poll conducted by the National Spectator's Association, 60% of respondents indicate they want the "Wahoo" logo of the Cleveland Major League Baseball team to be changed.
* Research conducted by a college professor debunks the myth that the Cleveland MLB team was named in "honor" of Louis Sockalexis, one of the first Native Americans to play for that club.
* Rickards High in Florida wisely decides to retire its 40 year old "Redskins" nickname.
* Oklahoma City University finalizes plans to change its "Chiefs" nickname to "Stars."
* ESPN airs a special program on Native Americans in sports and which contains a segment on the mascot issue. Follow-up coverage included an insightful online chat session with leading advocate, Suzan Shown Harjo.
* The Society of Indian Psychologists of the Americans issues a position statement that receives recognition in a publication of the prestigious American Psychological Association.
* The main Cleveland area public library enacts a dress code that prohibits its 700 employees from wearing garments bearing "Wahoo" images.
* Ten schools in the Dallas, Texas, area follow through on a 1997 decision to change their "Indian" sports team tokens.
* The Hutchinson Human Relations Commission, Hutchinson Kansas, issues a resolution


* Hendrix College in Arkansas retires its stereotypic "Indian-head" logo while retaining its "Warriors" nickname.
* Seattle University, a Jesuit school in Washington State, completes its transition from the "Chieftains" to the "Redhawks."
* Frontier High School in Deerfield, Massachusetts, changes it "Redskins" nickname.
* Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, retires its "Indians" nickname.
* Onteora High School in Boiceville, New York, retires its "Indians" nickname and other related practices only to see reactionary school board candidates win seats and reinstate the school's "Indian" sports team token. The district is believed to be the first in the country to repeal an anti-discrimination policy in order to keep its racial icon.
* Hiawatha, Kansas, retires the "Redskins" nickname from all schools in its district.
* The Canajoharie school district in New York state retires use of the "Redskins" nickname.


* Saranac Lake, New York, retires the "Redskins" nickname from all schools in its district.
* After failing to take action on an appeal that was filed five years earlier, the New York State Education Department calls for the retirement of institutionalized "Indian" sports team nicknames, mascots, and logos from its public schools.
* The school board for Penfield High School, near Rochester, NY, displays a healing gesture and votes 7-0 to retire the school's "Chiefs" sports team token.
* Sagamore Hills Elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia, decides it will no longer use a "Chiefs" mascot and prepares to consider alternative ways of showing support for that city's MLB team besides school-wide "tomahawk chops" and war chants.
* By the unanimous vote of its school board, Afton, NY, public schools exhibits good judgment and retires its "Indians" mascot.
* In an action that removes all doubt about the seriousness of concerns surrounding the use of "Indian" sports team tokens, The United States Commission on Civil Rights issues a position statement calling for educational institutions to avoid use of such ethnic nicknames and mascots.
* Parsipanny High School in Parsipanny, NJ, exhibits courageous vision by retiring its racial slur "Redskins" nickname.
* Following its President's recommendation, along with support from coaches and student government leaders, Southwestern College in Chula Vista, California, wisely elects to change its "Apaches" mascot to "Jaguars."
* The Bell-Chatham board of education in Illinois votes in favor of retiring the "Redskins"and "Braves" nicknames used by its schools.
* Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, Illinois, retires its "Apaches" nickname and provides a good example that the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and other institutions using "Indian" sports team tokens would do well to follow.
* Advocates from across the country convene at the Northern Plains Conference on American Indian Team Names and Logos held at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.
* The Minnesota Indian Education Association adopts a resolution in opposition to the University of North Dakota's use of the "Fighting Sioux" name and logo.
* Irondequoit High School, near Rochester, New York, makes plans to replace its "Indians" nickname.
* The Modern Language Association passes a resolution on mascots and symbols. The MLA includes over 30,000 members in the fields of English, foreign languages, and linguistics.
* The Quinnipiac University Board of Trustees Votes To Discontinue Use of 'The Braves' Nickname
* Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky, changes it's "Indian" themed mascot to "Patriots."
* Stating the district will not use any mascot that reflects any identifiable group by age, race, color, gender, religion or national origin, the District 87 school board voted to retire Bloomington High School's (Illinois) American Indian mascot. BHS kept the Purple Raiders nickname.


* The Iowa Civil Rights Commission passed a Resolution Opposing the Use of Native American Images, Mascots, and Team Names in Iowa
* The Durham (North Carolina) franchise in the summer collegiate Coastal Plain League changed its nickname from Braves to Americans. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board adopted a resolution against discriminatory logos, names, mascots and nicknames
* West High School in Oshkosh Wisconsin retired its "Indian" themed mascot.
* Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts decided its sports teams will no longer be known as Mohawks.
* New Hampshire State Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution calling for local school districts to stop using American Indian sports mascots.
* Southeastern Community College, in West Burlington, Iowa, makes a smart and painless change by dropping the "Indian" association to its "Blackhawk" nickname and changing it to reflect a bird of prey, the "Black Hawks."
* Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, changed its sports team nickname from "Indians" to "Redhawks"


* Joining the ranks of other newspapers that have also adopted similar guidelines the Nebraska Journal Star newspaper amends its style and, along with other related changes, will no long print the "Redskins" racial slur.
* The Telegraph-Forum, a newspaper in Central Ohio, discontinues its use of "Chief Wahoo."
* The Michigan State Board of Education passes a resolution that "supports and strongly recommends the elimination of American Indian mascots, nicknames, logos, fight songs, insignias, antics, and team descriptors by all Michigan schools."
* The Peoria Chiefs, a minor league affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, changes it logo from an American Indian to a Dalmatian fire chief.

Syncretists, Mascots and Other Racial Slurs...

NOTE FROM RAY: My essay today is about three forms of racism that all look
pretty good on the outside, but once you take a deeper look, get real ugly real

-- Using Native American symbols, names, people and objects as good luck charms to win sporting events is racism. I think that has been made abundantly clear.

-- Accusing Native American Christian leaders of syncretism is another form of
racism, although this occurs mostly in seminaries and denominational
headquarters, and often, large, powerful churches.

-- Demanding unity under the banner of multi-culturalism is another form of
racism, but uses all the politically correct terms to make it sound like an
added benefit to being a minority. The truth, however, is that it is just
racism, "new and improved."

It appears that the recent episode in Tennessee demonstrates that racism is
deeply rooted in America and that often, the only reason that racism seems to be diminishing is solely due to "political correctness." "You shouldn't make the Indians mad over mascots", they say, even though we are accorded no greater respect.

But remember the definition of racism -- it is when people in power make discriminatory choices. Poor people who don't like another race are just "prejudiced", having "prejudged" another person based on skin color, tribe, or neighborhood.

BUT, when people have the power to do good or evil, these people can exercise true racism, and not just personal prejudice.

A few days ago I got a note from a native minister about him being blacklisted by a denomination who accused him of promoting syncretism. Here is an excerpt:
I have always been deeply committed to the idea of unity among
believers in the bigger picture of things. I think a cross-cultural,
multi-cultural biblical unity is a profound picture of what God the
Creator intended for creation from the very beginning. This commitment
has often, and at times, been severely tested as some of my views of
faith and culture have not been so warmly received by my brethren. I
talked with a friend a few weeks ago who told me that the Native
leaders of the Native district of a denomination had placed me on
their "black list" because I was promoting syncretism.

I have on several occasions been crushed by the decisions of Caucasian
denominational leaders who dealt so selfishly and unjustly with their
Native leadership (my dear friends) over issues of self-governance,
co-equality and management of financial assets and resources. I have
been deeply disappointed by local pastors and missionary workers who
were unwilling to consider that some of their attitudes were still
very paternalistic and controlling toward Native people. I have at
times been angered over the simplistic demonizing of our cultural
expressions of faith by people who were largely ignorant of our ways,
espousing authoritative views based on hearsay, misinformation and
just plain discriminatory prejudice.


In my opinion, racism is the real motivation behind those who so quickly accuse native Christians of syncretism.

You see, the denominational leaders and theologians are too busy to bother with watching the Redskins play the Cowboys... instead, they are busy protecting the Church from anyone not exactly like themselves, and declare cultural Indians (who have not yet submitted to assimilation) to be Syncretists and other racial
slurs. You see, a theologian would never use the "N"-word, but they revel in pleasure at their exclusive boundaries which keep Indians out and keeps churches "safe" (from self-examination most likely...).

But now that native Christians are starting to emerge as powerful leaders in their own right, it makes the Big Church nervous. As the minister notes above, they deny us equal participation, funding, partnerships, but most of all, "significant leadership."

They profess the unity of the church, especially the MECC (multi-ethnic cross-cultural) churches, who claim that all races need to come to their church to worship or else they are not following the biblical principle of unity. But, this is just assimilation dressed up in ethnic costume. The worship service is high-powered Urban Gospel music, some Mexican ranchera praise songs, and letting some Indian play a hand drum along with the worship leader singing "How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place" by British Christian Matt Redman.

The "call for unity" is still just another guilt mechanism for assimilation. And it is rarely "multicultural" in it's leadership, because the songs and artwork are of the "international Christian bookstore" genre.

Recently, a large American denomination announced to their Native American
leadership agency that they were being disbanded since they had "fulfilled their
original mission" and now there would be no "Native American denominational
leadership." Their needs would now be met by the African-American office and all the various ethnic groups would now come under a single "Ethnic Ministries"

This is just like all the other treaties made with Indians -- it was unilateral,
made without discussion or consultation, and it once again relegated Indians to
a reservation under someone else's control. These national leaders get to pat
themselves on the back for being "multi-cultural." As natives, we have already
experienced multiple times what it means to be rounded up and moved. Just
reflect for a few moments on the Trail of Tears, or the state of Oklahoma that
many tribes were moved to, or the Indian Residential Schools of the US and
Canada. We were all rounded up, told it was to "help us", and had no say --
being moved under military threat.

So this denomination has a definite precedent for such a strategy, taking a page
right out of the Indian Wars! And their strategy, even if called "multiculturalism" is just as racist today as it ever has been!

Reflecting on the syncretism accusation, we Indians are offered the antidote of "critical contextualization", another method of allowing the majority church to tell us "how much Indian" can be and still "be saved." The notion of self-reflection is not a bad idea in and of itself, but why has the Big Church never applied critical contextualization to itself? Again, this is about the power of the Big Church to exclude us until we reach the full measure of whiteness required. (Please remember that "white" does not mean skin color -- it refers to the ones holding power).

Now there is a verse that talks about unity and maturity.

Ephesians 4:13 This is to continue until all of us are united in our faith and in our knowledge about God's Son, until we become mature, until we measure up to Christ, who is the standard.

Lucky for us Indians that Jesus Christ is the Standard for who we are to be, although it won't be a good idea to tell the Big Church leaders about this verse. It might just get thrown back in our faces. But at least it is written. And when the American church falls, they will have this verse to return to so that they can begin rebuilding on a solid foundation.

So, after all is said and done, is it fair to reply to those who cry "Syncretists!" with our own retort "Racists!"?

It is a question that deserves to be asked.

Most who accuse of us syncretism preach a shallow, parroted faith, where the highest value is correct information and questioning is not safe. This type of religious fundamentalism is inherently dangerous. It creates an atmosphere in which racism is theologically justified, where justice is never given its due, and where discussions are framed as King James Jihad ("You don't agree with us? We declare you the Great Satan!").

Of the fine church-going people in Kentucky that closed down Randy Woodley's "Eloheh Village" Native American School of ministry with their guns and threats, weren't they just doing their duty to God? The KKK has always been a religious organization trying to keep America and the church pure. For all the
calls for unity and cross-cultural churches, the vast majority serve a single race.

The KKK and fundamentalist theologians share the same value of racial superiority. One group burns crosses on lawns, the other group just crucifies us theologically.

So why did I write this today? Partly because some people question why Christians should even be concerned about the mascot issue at all. And
the reason is that it is an issue of justice and prima facie evidence of racism.

And why bother bringing up syncretism again (since it is not an issue in native communities)? Because behind the accusations which native Christians constantly suffer there are issues of racism and justice, just like mascots.

So the next time someone asks me, "Ray, are you aware of the dangers of syncretism in native ministry?" -- I will have to respond by saying "Before we discuss syncretism, don't you think we need to discuss racism and theological profiling first?"

Thanks for listening...


PS Many of us in "native ministry" respectfully try to keep our distance from the "big church". We work with them when we can because we believe that there is really only one Church, and natives are part of it too. But since they are usually pretty bossy about how to do things, we are starting and leading new gatherings ourselves. We have little money, no TV networks, and we suffer a lot. But it seems that we have a lot in common with other Jesus-followers throughout many centuries. If you want to learn more about our "New Gatherings", just visit us at