Tribe supports Native American mascots
Last week I wrote about the recent symposium about Native American imagery in sports that took place at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. Everyone quoted in the article was opposed to the use of such imagery, which led many readers to ask why I hadn't given equal time to the other side.
The answer to that is simple: I was there to cover the symposium, and every single speaker at the event -- about three times as many people as I ended up quoting in my column -- was opposed to the use of Native American mascots, logos and team names. (The Washington Redskins were invited to have a representative at the event, but they declined.)
But it's true that there are some Native Americans who are fine with the use of Native imagery in sports. In central Michigan, for example, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe recently announced that it had no problem with a local high school whose teams are called the Warriors.
I was curious to learn more, so I contacted the Saginaw Chippewas and spoke with their public relations director, Frank Cloutier. Here's how our conversation went:
Uni Watch: First, for people who aren't familiar with the Saginaw Chippewas, please tell me a bit about your tribe.
Frank Cloutier: Our tribe was formed with the ratification of our constitution in 1936. We have 3,292 members, and we live in the territories called the Isabella Federal Indian Reserve in Mount Pleasant, Mich., just north of Lansing. We have the fifth- or sixth-largest Indian-owned casino in the Midwest, so we're rather successful when it comes to our economic growth and development.
But it's not just about gaming for us -- it's about our culture. We have a very rich, diverse culture, which is showcased in a world-class, award-winning cultural museum on our reservation. So the situation regarding mascots and team names piques our interest.
Many of the people taking part in this debate see it as a black-and-white issue. Either they're completely opposed to all uses of Native American imagery, or they have no problem with any of it. What's your position, or your tribe's position, on that?
It's very, very clear for us, because we've worked with so many institutions in our area. Our position is that if it's not derogatory and it's being used appropriately, with an opportunity to share or cross-share our culture, then it's fine. There's nothing derogatory about "Warriors" or "Braves." There's nothing derogatory about "Indian." But terms like "Redskin" or "Half-Breed," those are derogatory terms to us.
Michigan tribe takes opposite tack, supports Native American mascots - ESPN
This is a pretty good read on the other side of this issue.
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