“The Native American Mascot: Tribute or Stereotype?”

The Huffington Post 
May 28, 2012

Sam Sommers, Professor
Tufts University


In yet another chapter of a continuing debate, the State of Oregon announced last week that its public schools must discontinue the use of Native American nicknames and mascots. The Board of Education gave state schools until 2017 to stop using team names such as “Indians,” “Chiefs,” “Braves,” and “Redskins.” Other names such as “Warriors” will still be permitted, provided that no imagery is used referring to a particular tribe, custom, or individual.

Predictably, reaction to the order has been mixed.

Supporters of the ban assert that even if the schools that use them harbor no ill-intent, the images themselves are caricatures that perpetuate stereotypes. Opponents of the ban suggest that these names celebrate, rather than disparage Native American culture. And fans of the slippery slope argument would ask what, then, of the other sports nicknames that make reference to a particular group of people, whether in terms of region of origin (Vikings, Fighting Irish, Celtics), religion (Quakers, Saints), or occupation (Boilermakers, Engineers)?

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