I first wrote about the issue of Native American mascots and logos in the October 1993 issue of Athletic Business - at a time when the issue was already 20 years old. My story was called "Chief Injustice." I think it still fits.
Awareness of the demeaning nature of these symbols only went national (that is, off the reservation) when a group of Native American students and staff petitioned the Stanford University dean of students in 1970, objecting to the name and likeness of the school's athletic teams, the Stanford Indians, as well as the Indian-themed rituals that took place at athletic events. In 1972, after 42 years as the Indians, the school changed its teams' name to the Stanford Cardinal.
Stanford Indians, c. 1970
Although counter-protests by people wedded to "Indians" continued for a number of years, all hell did not break loose. And today, the Cardinal - a color, like the Crimson Tide - is respected, revered, even (this year) feared on the gridiron. They may not "scalp" their opponents any longer; they're no longer on the "warpath." But the school's athletes didn't become any less...fierce...with the name change.
The discussion on the AB Newswire over the past 24 hours has centered on names and logos that "honor" tribes. I won't wade in further. I would like to point out a very comprehensive story that is worthwhile reading despite not being up-to-date on the recent battles over the Fighting Sioux. It is particularly notable for pointing out that although athletic programs can change their depictions of Native Americans, or alter their rituals, the larger group of fans does not always show the same respect, having been born and raised in a culture that has caricatured the American Indian from well before the time it took their land, their lives and their culture away.
I also am including a number of images found on the Internet. Supporters of the Seminoles will say that their logos are different, that their name honors the tribe. You can decide for yourself whether depicting a race of people as a symbol is degrading or not. I think the protesters were right in 1970, and I think they're right forty years later.