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Are Native American mascots unacceptable in 2019? Even native groups can't agree

Posted at 12:36 AM, Jan 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-22 09:35:12-05

OXFORD, Ohio — Are Native American mascots a source of pain or pride? On Monday night, the Native American Guardian’s Associated hosted an event promoting a rare public intracommunity debate about non-natives’ use of stereotypical figures — Braves, Chiefs, Redskins, Fighting Sioux and more — in sports.

The Guardian’s Association’s viewpoint, as articulated by president Eunice Davidson, is that keeping native iconography in the popular consciousness is good for real native communities.

“It doesn’t bother us,” Davidson said Monday. “In fact, we’re really happy that a big university would use our name.”

Her argument asserts that native mascots can honor real tribes and keep interest in their traditions alive.

Opposite Davidson on the debate panel was Jacqueline Keeler, who voiced her opposition to all such mascots.

According to Keeler and others who spoke on her side, these mascots turn real cultures into caricatures and perpetuate colonial-era beliefs about natives in the modern day.

“It promotes primarily stereotypes, and these stereotypes are harmful to our society,” she said. “We have to know each other as more than stereotypes. We have to know each other as more than performance.”

Davidson’s organization chose Oxford for the event, which comprises part of its “Educate Not Eradicate” campaign defending native mascots, in the wake of Talawanda High School’s November 2018 decision to redesignate its team, the Braves, as the Brave. WVXU reported the 3-2 vote hinged on the school board, which is composed of five white members, hearing the arguments of native families in the area.

"We have Native American students and families living in our community and they do not feel honored by the use of that Native American mascot, and two of the board members said that after hearing from those families they felt compelled that a change should be made," communications director Holli Morrish told the radio station.

Protests from native groups also galvanized the unsuccessful push for Anderson High School to abandon its Redskins branding earlier in 2018.

Native American athletic mascots have been a subject of controversy since at least 1968, when the National Congress for American Indians began campaigning for their removal from professional sports.