The National Congress of American Indians advocates for “ending the legacy of racism and the era of harmful ‘Indian’ mascots.” As the NCAI elaborates, such mascots “have serious psychological, social and cultural consequences for Native Americans, especially Native youth.” The caricatures and stereotypes perpetuated by the use of “Indian” mascots spawns a culture that dehumanizes Indigenous peoples. The harm is real, as the Department of Justice has noted, is: “American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race.” Because these mascots relegate Native Americans to cartoon-like, savage, past existence, Indigenous people today are perceived as and treated as if they are inferior.
In a recent resolution, the American Psychological Association called for the retirement of “all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations.” Psychologists are concerned with “Indian” mascots due to a robust and expanding body of social science literature that shows that these symbols have a negative impact on the social identity and self-esteem of American Indian youth. Research has shown that these mascots establish an “unwelcome and often times hostile learning environment.”
Native American people are presented in disrespectful ways that do not accurately portray their culture, spirituality and traditions. Researchers at Stanford University have shown how these mascots negatively impact schools: “American Indian mascots are harmful because they remind American Indians of the limited ways others see them and, in this way, constrain how they can see themselves.” Due to the harm created and perpetuated by these mascots, the APA resolution implores all psychologists to speak out against this form of racism.
Across the country, schools are increasingly recognizing that their mascots were born in an era of racism and racial intolerance and are making changes to create more inclusive communities that allow Native American youth to thrive just like other students. Rutland should join the ranks.
A video on the National Congress of American Indian’s website made me think about the Raider mascot. It spoke, “….we call ourselves many things, proud, forgotten, Navajo, Blackfoot, survivor, patriot, survivor……one thing Native peoples don’t call themselves is R**dskin.” or “Raider?”