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Deborah Kirk

As a Native American, what I am most looking for with regard to "Indian" sports mascots, is respect. How does the image given represent Native American cultures? Is it degrading? Is it disrespectful? Will it cause ill will, harm, or embarrassment to members of the population for whom the mascot is aimed at representing? Does it result in forms of stereotyping? These are just a few of the many questions that race through my mind when I encounter "Indian" mascots. With few exceptions, I can answer these questions with a resounding YES. Too often, Native American culture is misrepresented in the accoutrements of sports mascots. Traditional Native American attire, drum beats, ceremonial chants, and war cries are all appropriated, taken out of context, and cheapened to serve the needs of mainstream institutional traditions with little regard for Native American traditions and cultures. For me personally, this results in feelings of anger, awkwardness, and embarrassment as I gaze upon the image that is supposed to represent “Indians." I want to stand up and shout "THIS ISN'T WHO WE ARE!!!" or, at the very least, ask and receive answers to the questions: "Why did you choose to represent our cultures in this manner?";  "Do you know anything about Native American cultures?"; "Have you received permission from Native American tribes to appropriate American Indian culture?"; "Are you working with Native American tribes to ensure accuracy and respectfulness in your representation?”; and the big one... "If you aren't a Native American institution, should you even have an "Indian" mascot?" Institutions sporting "Indian" mascots must be held accountable to answering these questions. And if the institution finds that its representation of Native American culture is degrading, disrespectful, causes ill will, harm, and embarrassment among American Indian communities, or is projecting stereotypes, then I suggest it is time for that institution to find another mascot.

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