The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Indian mascots 'demeaning'

Whether they rove the sidelines waving tomahawks or carrying "peace pipes," the Indian mascots of sports teams are demeaning caricatures that are deeply insulting and stereotyping, say American Indian leaders.

 "Our sacred songs, dances, ceremonies, languages and religions are precious to us as a people," says Gaiashkibos, past president of the National Congress of American Indians, a recognized voice for Indian people and tribal governments.

While images of Black Sambo and Frito Bandito no longer appear in some companies' advertising, American Indian portrayals are still in use. Trudy Brubaker, ELCA director for corporate social responsibility, says Liz Claiborne's Crazy Horse clothing line is one such example. "Consumer pressure would help ... for instance, most of us would be offended if there were Jesus Christ jeans or Martin Luther King Jr. malt liquor," she says.

Gordon Straw, an ELCA pastor and member of the Brothertown Indian Nation, says, "The bottom line for me is who has the power: the people being portrayed are the ones who should determine whether something is offensive or not.

"I don't know if it's just plain blindness or if it's that American Indians make up less than 1 percent of America and are not seen as an important voting bloc."

For ways to help change the use of stereotypical Indian images, contact HONOR, a lobbying group, at 6435 Wiesner Rd., Omro, WI 54963.


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