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Use of native mascots perpetuates crippling myths

Citizen's View

Some say using tribal depictions as logos and mascots is a tradition. But this is a tribal tradition, not your tradition.

It is disrespectful for anyone to depict a tribal warrior without understanding the cultural significance. You do not take a culture and do what we have witnessed in old Hollywood movies without even understanding what you are doing (What's in a nickname?, Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune, May 31).

What sport teams and others have as a mascot is supposed to build a sense of identity, pride and community. Then you should ask: 'Is it positive or negative when people hear about it?'

In most cases, people say they don't mean anything racist by it, but that still doesn't make it acceptable. The problem with the name 'Indians' for a sports team is that it perpetuates the crippling myth that tribal people, their lands, their culture, their sovereign powers, their very existence, are relics of the past.

By using tribal depictions for sports teams, tribal logos on products and tribal symbols as trademarks, the non-tribal public is using just one aspect - the dead, silent, noble tribal person of the past - of tribal people to suit the non-tribal people's purpose. You do not see any of today's reservation tribal members on any sports logo or product.

The 'race' problem is essentially a non-tribal problem in that it is non-tribal people who have developed it by using sport team names, logos and products, and they perpetuate it by not wanting to change. Yet non-tribal people have the power to resolve the issue by having tribal people directly involved, as very few have done.

I question if the non-tribal public ever wonders how tribal people have been able to continue to exist in the ongoing process of extermination; they don't spend much time thinking about it-after all, it seems to be a dead subject.

So many sports teams are named after tribal people that other groups are being discriminated against because they don't receive the same 'honor.' So the Cleveland Warriors could become the Cleveland Wops with a mob kingpin waving a machine gun for a mascot. Let's call the Aloha Warriors the Aloha Spics. The Washington Redskins could become the Washington Chinks, with a slant-eyed half-naked sumo wrestler running around the stadium waving a samurai sword. Fans could do the Samurai slash.

We have cars named after the sacred Lakota symbol of the Thunderbird, so let's develop the Mercury Crucifix, the Lincoln Menorah and the Ford Ankh.

Let's hear it for equal opportunity racism. It's not fair to just offend and exploit tribal people-we need to get everyone in on the action.

Carol Craig is a Yakama Nation tribal member.

Editor's note: As Craig's satiric use of racial expressions in her letter is intended to illustrate the inappropriateness of one culture's derogatory use of language to label another culture, we allowed the inclusion as an exception to our policy. If you have concerns regarding this decision, please contact Publisher Darryl Swan at 503-543- 6387, or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .