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“Indian” School Mascot: Derogatory or Honorable?

Hailey Spaeth

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By Kenny Wang ’17, Contributor

I’ll admit, I have not interviewed nor spoken to a Native American about their thoughts on this matter, and even if I did I cannot claim to represent the thoughts of an entire group of people. I will give my own opinion about this matter, while attempting to not rely on anecdotes or appeals to emotion. Is there anything wrong with changing the mascot? No. Times change, and we shouldn’t keep something dated just because of tradition or because “it’s the way it’s always been.”

However, my argument is that our mascot, the ambiguous “Indian,” is not a derogatory symbol. Why would we use it to represent ourselves if it was meant to be shameful? There is nothing inherently bad about it, nor anything inherently good about it. It is all about the meaning we assign to it.

At first glance, the mascot does seem archaic. It’s stereotypical. How many Native Americans were tribal warriors, whether it be in the present or even many generations ago? “Indian” isn’t even the correct term, considering that they are the native people of North America. Our image of the Indian meant something else in the past. Then again, so did many other mascots. We are okay with teams dubbing themselves “Knights,” “Patriots,” and “Vikings,” even though they are not medieval land-owning nobles, early American colonists, or plundering explorers of the sea. These are metaphors.

Perhaps the word “Indian” itself is offensive, but I believe otherwise. That is what we refer to ourselves as, not what we force upon others. When Country Day was founded in 1926 and we appropriated the name “Indian” for ourselves, it could be said that this culture separated into two branches, the Country Day Indian and the historical Indian. I don’t think anyone has claimed an embargo on culture, especially since we’re using it without the intent to harm or deride. As I said before, all these historical groups (Knights, Vikings, etc.) have people that embrace another’s culture with romantic depictions of the past, giving a chance for something new to grow. Though these depictions (movies, books, yes, even mascots) can be inaccurate or even wishful, I believe they can indulge in a little creative freedom.

Our mascot may have a basis in the Native Americans of the past, but I believe that its meaning has changed. People are not so simple as to be defined by caricatures, and labels should not confine them. Instead, we use the icon of the tribal warrior as a model to represent the core values we wish to show on the sports field and in daily life: courage, respect, integrity, compassion, and responsibility. We’re not trying to send a message that “all Native Americans act and look like this,” but rather that we value some characteristics once shown in folklore and stories.

Maybe I’m delusional or just plain stupid, but I think our mascot is cool. It deserves a chance.

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“Indian” School Mascot: Derogatory or Honorable?