anthropologists often agree that sports have their origins in
religious rituals, the fierce competitiveness inherent in many
sports has frequently resulted in analogies being draw between
such activities and warfare. Thus we find that characteristics
like aggression, brute strength, deception, and relentlessness,
which are highly valued in combat, are also desirable traits
for athletes competing in the socialized, ritual warfare of
the sports arena. By coupling American Indian people to such
traits via the use of symbolically related logos, etc., negative
stereotypes and historical inaccuracies are subtly encouraged
and perpetuated. One example of this can be seen in the prolific
use of the "warrior" nickname which is very frequently
related to First Nations by the use of stereotypic logos and
mascots. This insidious association is particularly troublesome
with regards to schools which, by virtue of their perceived
authority, have the ability to strongly influence students in
their development of lifelong attitudes and constructs.
misconceived, self-serving concept of American Indian people
being universally inclined toward particularly war-like and
violent behavior historically allowed for the justification
of heinous acts committed against Native Peoples in the name
of "civilizing" the so-called "primitives."
By continuing to portray First Nations in this manner via association
to the intrinsic aggression and violence found in many sporting
activities, this same rationalization is erroneously continued
to this day and carries with it serious negative consequences
for contemporary Native Peoples. While it cannot be authoritatively
said that the uses in question are a major factor in the phenomenon,
according to the United States Department of Justice, American
Indian people are more than twice as likely to be victims of
violent crime than any other group of Americans.
toward the use of "Indian" related mascots are inculcated
at an early age when the individual is highly susceptible to
influence and social pressure. This phenomenon was successfully
exploited by World War II Nazi propaganda which paid particular
attention to conditioning youth to adopt anti-Jewish beliefs.
Similarly, it is also interesting to note that several elements
that were typically present at Nazi spectacle events including
cheering crowds, martial music, marching, and lights (such as
are used in night games) are also regular parts of high school
cartoon-like imagery tends to dehumanize the subject. This mechanism
is well-known and is often used during times of war to dehumanize
an enemy. The result allows the portrayer to trivialize the
concerns of the one being portrayed and simultaneously helps
protect self-esteem by relieving guilt feelings arising from
hostile acts directed against the subject. Dehumanization, as
the word implies, is a psychological process that reduces a
person or group to a sub-human level. One way in which this
process is deployed is by suggesting the subject of the dehumanization
is like an animal. Because animals of various types and "Indian"
related mascots are those most frequently used, it can be observed
that this practice places Native Peoples on a par with wild
stereotyping and dehumanization objectification is facilitated.
Instead of being thought of as unique individuals each of whom
is capable of the full range of human behaviors and potentialities,
Native Peoples are transformed into depersonalized "things"
having very limited scope. At work here are the same principles
found in pornography which also turns real, living people into
objects of a different sort.
psychologists tell us that an attitude is composed of three
parts: cognitive; affective (emotional); and behavioral. Because
of the strong and deeply rooted emotional component involved
in the uses in question, concepts held about such uses are highly
resistant to change through the application of rational arguments
or pure reason.
use of such mascots and nicknames are a form of tokenism which
consequently engenders rationalization of more serious acts
or negative attitudes directed toward Native Peoples.
concept of mascots and nicknames "honoring Indians"
may in reality be an ego defense mechanism that helps preserve
the self-esteem of the individual doing the alleged "honoring"
by protecting him or her from facing the reality of the genocidal
horrors inflicted on First Nations peoples.
generic quality of the spurious misnomer, "Indians,"
denies Indigenous Peoples the sense of pride and place derived
from an understanding and recognition of one's unique cultural
heritage. By failing to illustrate the great diversity found
among Native American cultures, generic mascots facilitate stereotypical
categorization and perpetuate false concepts that arose with
the first contact between European explorers and their Indigenous
mascots "freeze" Indigenous Peoples in a romanticized
historical period that ended over a century ago - and which
in truth probably never existed. By continuing to portray American
Indians in such a manner the reality of how First Nations peoples
are today - living, struggling and adapting like everyone else
in the modern world - is set askew.
of the pervasiveness and longevity involved in the use of
American Indian related mascots by public schools, such uses
have become institutionalized. Having been institutionalized,
it becomes very difficult to recognize the discriminatory
and racist practices for what they are.