I don't even know where to begin because there are so many issues at stake. I'll try to lay them out. Some I have written about on my blog and have copied directly into this email, others are my on-the-spot thinking right now.
The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness, Inc., (MCNAA) finds the use of mascots and accompanying stereotypical behavior to be an offensive and derogatory practice that belittles the culture and religion of Native Americans. Mascots dehumanize and objectify Native Americans reaffirming the belief that Native people no longer exist or that they exist only in the media or as caricatures. Stereotyping of this nature is harmful on many levels not only to Native people but also to those who allow the stereotype to shape their view.
MCNAA supports the 2001 statement of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that deemed the use of Native mascots “inappropriate, insensitive, disrespectful and offensive “(insert link to doc) and calls for an immediate cessation of the use of Native American mascots. MCNAA does not condone stereotyping, bias, discrimination or prejudice against any racial, ethnic or religious group.
In June, 2014, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled the Washington team’s trademarks, pending appeals. The TTAB held that the six trademark licenses issued to Pro Football, Inc. between 1967 and 1990 were “disparaging” to a “substantial composite” of Native American people. That was the second time the TTAB – the expert judges on trademark law – ruled against the team’s name; the first was in 1999 in Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc.
A major problem with "mascots" is that they stereotype. While many things stereotype many groups, the fact that First Nations People have so little accurate representation in cinema, textbooks, history, novels, etc. in our own country makes it much more problematic. See here for research: http://nativeamericanresources.blogspot.com/2015/05/stereotoypes-mascots-and-absence-of.html All of those images are stereotypes of Native Americans and they keep us in the past, which is the biggest problem that we face as Native people. We aren't seen as contemporary or professional. Stereotypes miss the positive images. If there was a range, maybe you wouldn't notice it, but given that there's an absence of anything else, this is the wrong image to project for Native people.
Stereotypes not only affect the First Nations People, they affect nonNative people, too, by giving inaccurate information. If the mascots were about communities who are gay, Jewish, or black, it would have already stopped. Each time mascots are used or our dress is taken out of context, we are reminded that we are not equal and we are not respected, at the same time that it teaches the nonNative group (those doing the stereotyping and appropriation) that they are superior.
Sherman Alexie said in an interview that Tony Hillerman sells more copies of ONE book than all Native American authors combined. We have not been able to tell our authentic stories. More people see stereotypical images than they see the real, authentic images. People would rather read, see, and listen to the “white man’s Indian” than an authentic Native American. One single image is assigned to all NA’s with little regard to our individual differences.
In addition, statistics are often cited that mention Native American's "don't care" or "are fine" with the sports images, but that is not the whole story. Here is an article that explains this: http://www.buzzfeed.com/joeflood/how-the-redskins-debate-goes-over-on-an-actual-indian-reserv#.waneVkgGy “I don’t really worry about it,” said Elaine YellowHorse, a college student and EMT on the reservation, told me. “There are just so many other things that I need to worry about before that.” But YellowHorse gives the lie to the idea that 58% of the survey respondents actively condone the name. While she said she wouldn’t bother to change it, YellowHorse also told me that she found “Redskins” offensive and was upset by the idea that there were non-Native fans running around in headdresses in the nation’s capital. It’s a difficult sentiment to understand — to find something offensive but not worth worrying about — but when the whole world around you is tinged with racism, you have a high bar for what you deem worthy of worrying about.
In her 2011, work for UMass, Carol Huben states, "Thus, as we have seen, mainstream America legitimizes its use of inauthentic representations by recharacterizing them as genuine, using as its proof Hollywood and other media representations. To their minds, the actions that the mascots undertake- threatening to scalp enemies, brandishing spears, war whooping, covering themselves in any kind of paint, playing war drums- are all actions that real Indians do. Because they think that these actions are authentic, they cannot understand the objections to things that make such an accurate portrayal. Only when brought out into the open does this line of thought fall flat, when one realizes that no current-day Indians, nor past ones, have made a practice of doing all these things in the way that mascots represent them."
All these school and sports logos and mascots are racist. If you don't think they are, then you don't understand the issue. At one time, people didn't think slavery or segregated schools were a problem either. If a town wants to be known for their racism, then keep the name. Look at Whitesboro. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/13/nyregion/residents-in-whitesboro-ny-vote-to-keep-a-much-criticized-village-emblem.html?_r=1 Is that what Tewksbury wants to be seen as year from now? The time has come to change, be a leader. "Redskins" refers to bloody scalps brought into a trading post for reward money. It is a symbol of genocide and government-sanctioned murder. It is a "blackface" equivalent and should similarly not be tolerated. Dressing up as another group of people (and even thinking that there is only one dress) is cultural appropriation. Racial slurs are not an honor.
Huben also says, "Many mainstream Americans truly believe that stereotypes are not harmful, or that mascots are positive, friendly representations of Indianness. However, there is almost no one who thinks that 'it would cost a lot to change' is a good reason to continue doing something racist."
FYI: In regards to the Lowell Sun article. As you know, Billerica also has an "Indian" mascot. While I did meet with the Principal of Billerica High about their mascot and logo, I am misquoted in the article. The Principal said he was using a different symbol for academics (a "B" for Billerica), but that the "Indians" was still the athletic logo (not "phasing out" as stated in the article).
Unlike EVERY ethnic group in this country, First Nations People have no other place in the world where there is a critical mass of our ethnic group. There is no place in the world that has places to worship in our traditional ways located in every town or region. There is no place in the world where the story books and history texts predominantly reflect our authentic voice and facts of our existence. There is no place in the world where movies, news reports, and television shows reflect the range and diversity of our people. There is no place in the world where everyone speaks our language, understands our customs, and “other” folks are the outsiders. Every other ethnic group in the United States has a tether attached to another country (whether they want it, believe it, or not, it is still there) where there is an entire society that is Chinese, German, Jewish, etc. If we aren’t portrayed correctly here, in the U.S.A., we have absolutely no other place or recourse to tell our accurate, authentic story. This is our ONLY land, the place of origination, where our stories were created, and where all of our ancestors are buried.
So, while I have Jan. 27 open, and I'm willing to respond to emails, post blogs, and grant interviews, I have refrained from attending events, especially if it is unlikely that I will get to speak. While we, as First Nations People, are oppressed by racism, nonNative people are hurt by it, too. The outcry needs to come from that community. When only men were allowed to inherit property, vote, and be CEO's and judges, it had to be a man to change the laws, hire a woman, and step aside so that she could vote. There cannot be the expectation that the person being stomped on is the one who has to cry out to be heard. We need allies, like you, or there is little hope for us.
Afterall, it's already been 500 years of "contact" and see where we are? I've attached two readings that are related to my points and my blogs are below my name. You may forward my email, if you think the information would be helpful.
It's only a matter of time until this becomes an issue in my own town with its use of "Indians." The entire conversation has helped me clarify what points need to be made.