Eye on Education

Report: American Indian Sports Mascots Harm Native Youth

A mother and son pose before a Chief Wahoo sign at the Indians' season opener this year.


A mother and son pose before a Chief Wahoo sign at the Indians' season opener this year.

A liberal leaning research institute in Washington said all schools and professional teams around the country should retire any sports mascots that adversely affect the well-being of Native Americans.

The Center for American Progress’ report said native-themed team names and displays during pep rallies or “spirit weeks” can cause confusion, embarrassment, or alienation among native students.

“School’s a tough enough place it to be as it is,” said the Center’s Erik Stegman. “And when you have to see your culture boiled down to what some non-native person decides they want it to be…that sticks with you the rest of your life. And then when you have to grow up in a place like Cleveland and deal with things like the Cleveland Indians, it really makes native people feel like non-native people A) don’t understand them and B) don’t really care what their issues are.”

Stegman said this isolated feeling can contribute to poor grades, conflicts with classmates and teachers, and substance abuse.

Cynthia Connolly is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and guest columnist for The Plain Dealer. She agrees with the Center’s report and said it’s hard to work and live near Progressive Field during baseball season.

“It’s really hard to see these young kids wearing face paint and head dresses, and knowing full well that they just don’t fully understand why they’re doing it,” said Connolly. “But then they’re going to grow up with that tradition and they’re going to think it’s okay.  And so that’s where the cycle needs to stop.”

The Center for American Progress recommends that the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights use its full power to eliminate what it calls “hostile environments” in schools.



  • Jim Saulino

    Schools would do well to consider some form of a lesson that addresses the U.S. Government’s genocidal Indian Wars. Later and into present times we are left with monuments to that genocide. These include names of rivers, cities, and other features of the United States. Most odious of all in the naming of sports teams after conquered indigenous peoples. “Redskins” seems particularly offensive; the Cleveland Indians Chief Wahoo is a close rival.

    Brian Bull’s article presents us with another beginning toward addressing this issue. I’m not optimistic since these warnings are well known and frequently marginalized. I laud Mother Jones for publishing. Persistence may me our strongest weapon.

  • Renate Jakupca

    ‘People Not Mascots’ Logo is meant to be a Native American protest
    caricature of the racists Chief Wahoo logo of the Cleveland Indians
    Baseball team. It was originally painted in 1992 by David Jakupca at the
    historic ARK in Berea for the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance along with the Lake Erie Native American Council (LENAC) incorporating elements of the Theory of Iceality on Environmental Arts, it has drawn criticism from some sportswriters, fans and local businessmen, but gained immediate acceptance among humanitarian, religious groups and Native Americans. It gained international popular attention when it was it exhibited by ICEA at the 1993 UN World
    Conference on Human Rights held in Vienna, Austria and has become one of
    the most recognized anti-racists logo’s in existence. It also caused
    repercussions for the groups connected with using the logo in protest
    demonstrations and this has been documented in the INTERNECINE MATRIX.
    Google Reference Links: INTERNECINE MATRIX.

  • Pearl Pullman

    As a descendent of brave Cherokees, I’ve watched this issue for decades. I know that when my friend, a Coke representative, visited reservations the first thing they asked for was her usual supply of Cleveland Indians’ products.

    You can twist history to make it sound slanderous to name a team after things related to Native Americans but I know that no team calls itself the Pussycats or the Sloths. They pick names that represent strength and it is a credit to Native Americans that so many chose names that reflected their opinions of Native Americans.

    Redskins? A bad title? Is “black” a bad title for African Americans? Is “white” a bad thing to write on applications? Give me a break!!

    Surveys have been done on this issue and very few take the position of this article.

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