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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.

1 Comment

One Response to ““Indian” School Mascot: Derogatory or Honorable?”

  1. Jordann S on May 14th, 2017 2:42 am

    As a fellow Perspectives Editor on the Scroll, this topic has been on the top of my list of subjects to write about. It seems than Kenny Wang beat me to it! But I do not agree with his position, which was very well written and clearly stated (for that I applaud him). I remember a speaker that came to CCDS from the Pueblo Tribe. When asked about our derogatory mascot, The Indian, he asked, “Which one?” This is what CCDS needs to ask itself. We cannot possibly represent and honor the native people when there are so many different tribes, with different languages and different cultures both past and present and I do wish that Wang had interviewed people of Native descent. It seems that the situation would be different if our mascot was the CCDS “Nig**rs” or the CCDs “Cr**kers,” yet we are okay with Indian (I admit is much better than “Redsk*in,” which the Washington football team somehow coined). The reason which “Viking” and “Knights” are acceptable mostly because those are more mythical and are not so relevant today. When was the last time you’ve walked upon the mighty Viking race of 2017? Native Americans are people, not legends and bedtimes stories. If the word truly is a metaphor, then we need to choose a tribe that we can accurately depict and honor. The Deleware? The Cherokee? And, in all honesty, it does not help that CCDS is a private, wealthy, predominately white school. We do not have any Native students (at least to my knowledge) yet we throw the word “Indian” around as if we have permission to do so. Many tribes still believe that the word is very offensive yet some tribes believe that the word “Indian” is acceptable: this still does not give us the right to use the word for ourselves. And I am very glad we got rid of the Indian mascot, which ran around on the field during Spirit Week, and replaced it with the “Spirit Man” (although we can come up with a better name than that). I always feel as if I’m watching a minstrel show when I see that blow-up tomahawk and fake, red war paint. We should represent native people by at least accurately showing the tribes who used to thrive on this land. I apologize if this response is long. As I said before, I was going to write about this. I may still do so.

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“Indian” School Mascot: Derogatory or Honorable?