Should John Burroughs High School keep its Indian mascot or choose
What do you think?
I am a Chippewa Indian, and my siblings and I attended high school
with white people. We were the only Indians in the town, but much to my
distress we were not the only Indians at the school. Our sports team was
named the Indians.
When in assembly (which took place in the gymnasium), the wall had a
caricature much to the liking of Chief Wahoo.
I will never forget the first time I saw the cartoon drawing and the
horror I felt with the representation of an Indian looking like that. I
was so embarrassed and uncomfortable. It was that day when I had my first
dose of feeling shame.
No other race is used as a mascot. No other race has those horrible
caricatures painted on the walls, gym floors or displayed in or around
the buildings. Why would anyone ever think it's OK to use a race in such
People call it an honor, but that honor is being based on tradition or
the sentiments of those who attended the school and don't want to see
Changing the mascot isn't going to harm the stamina or power of the
sports team. But keeping the mascot is always going to take away some of
the growth of the developing minds of American Indian children when the
stereotypes and racism evolve around them in the guise of "honoring" the
No one should ever be made to feel uncomfortable when attending any of
our schools across the country.
I cannot tell you how it felt to watch and listen to the cheerleaders
chant out, "Scalp 'em!" during the games, as well as other cheers that
made references to the Indians.
I can only give you my perspective as an American Indian.
It hurt. It hurt way deep inside as my brother and I were constantly
taunted as being the "real" Danville Indians. After all, we were living
proof that the Indians were alive and well.
Yes, we were alive, but neither my brother nor I felt it inside while
attending the school. I didn't know the words "racism" and "prejudice"
then, but the feelings were there all the same.
Times have changed in the 30 years I have left that school.
Or have they?
I know as an American Indian the stereotype and racism a caricature
can produce in the young minds of the children. I know as an American
Indian the stereotype and racism a name such as "The Indians" can produce
in the young minds of the children.
I know this because I lived with it. I am still living with it to this
But I can't go back and change the history of my life's events. What
was done cannot be erased, but I can bear witness that having the name
the Indians for sports teams should not be in any school when it's been
proven time and again that they promote a stereotypical view of American
Indians -- one that is usually not flattering.
Instead of honoring Indians by retaining a mascot, honor Indian people
by eliminating them. This will be the truest form.
St. Johnsbury, Vt.