Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Briefs. Discussion »
LANSING, MICHIGAN Last Friday, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, asking the federal agency to issue an order prohibiting the continued use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and imagery.
The complaint specifically names primary and secondary schools that use American Indian imagery associated with their sports teams.
The authors of the complaint compare past treatment of what happened in America to American Indians through genocide to what happened to Jews during the Holocaust.
Department of Civil Rights
"Few, if any, would not find it offensive if schools in Germany today were to adopt Jewish nicknames in "honor" of those who perished in the Holocaust. Nor will the passage of another 50 or 100 years make it appropriate for them to do so. Even if enacted with good intentions and tasteful images, we would immediately recognize that they were at the very least trivializing, if not ignoring or even denying, their past and, in doing so, insulting the descendants of their victims.
In fact, Hitler studied the way America dealt with its "Indian problem" in great detail. He was a great admirer of the methods used to make land available for a superior people and is believed to have used it as model for his solution to the "Jewish problem" in Europe," states a portion of the supporting documentation of the discrimination complaint.
“A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry,”
the filing argues.
“Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease,”
states portion of the complaint.
The complaint asks the Office of Civil Rights to determine that the use of American Indian mascots, names, terms, graphics and/or other imagery negatively impacts a minority of primary and secondary students thereby denying them equal protection and opportunity; and that the Office of Civil Rights therefore order that:
The use of American Indian mascots, names, terms, graphics and/or other imagery, particularly those which portray stereotypical Indian images as warriors, will not be permitted in primary or secondary educational institutions that receive federal funds, except in the very limited and well defined circumstances described below.
The term "Redskins" has historically been used as a racial slur, and for this reason carries particularly negative connotations that accentuate the negative impact of associated stereotypes. Use of the term as a team name by primary or secondary educational institutions that receive federal funds is always impermissible.
Where limited uses of images, particularly the use of names of locally significant tribes or tribal persons with tribal support for doing so, can be done in a way that is respectful and which does not reinforce any singular limiting image of Indian Peoples, they may be continued, but only within guidelines provided by Office of Civil Rights.
The use of American Indian names and imagery by each of the schools named in this complaint falls within the impermissible uses described above and must cease.
Probably by coincidence, the complaint was filed one day after the National Museum of the American Indian held a one day symposium last Thursday where there panels were assembled to discuss the impact of American Indian imagery in sports.
posted February 11, 2013 8:30 am est