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Report: American Indian Sports Mascots Harm Native Youth

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM

A mother and son pose before a Chief Wahoo sign at the Indians' season opener this year.

A mother and son pose before a Chief Wahoo sign at the Indians' season opener this year.

A liberal leaning research institute in Washington said all schools and professional teams around the country should retire any sports mascots that adversely affect the well-being of Native Americans.

The Center for American Progress’ report said native-themed team names and displays during pep rallies or “spirit weeks” can cause confusion, embarrassment, or alienation among native students.

“School’s a tough enough place it to be as it is,” said the Center’s Erik Stegman. “And when you have to see your culture boiled down to what some non-native person decides they want it to be…that sticks with you the rest of your life. And then when you have to grow up in a place like Cleveland and deal with things like the Cleveland Indians, it really makes native people feel like non-native people A) don’t understand them and B) don’t really care what their issues are.”


Stegman said this isolated feeling can contribute to poor grades, conflicts with classmates and teachers, and substance abuse.

Cynthia Connolly is a member of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, and guest columnist for The Plain Dealer. She agrees with the Center’s report and said it’s hard to work and live near Progressive Field during baseball season.

“It’s really hard to see these young kids wearing face paint and head dresses, and knowing full well that they just don’t fully understand why they’re doing it,” said Connolly. “But then they’re going to grow up with that tradition and they’re going to think it’s okay.  And so that’s where the cycle needs to stop.”

The Center for American Progress recommends that the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights use its full power to eliminate what it calls “hostile environments” in schools.

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