There are more than 2,100 schools across the U.S. with a Native American mascot and moniker and no one is talking about them, a new report suggests.
The report, released by FiveThirtyEight.com, examined a database with information on 42,624 schools in the country and discovered at least 2,129 have a Native American mascot and nickname. Names of the schools range from Indians to Savages, to Squaws and Redskins.
The report discovered that where Native American mascots are most prevalent, which is the Midwest, the population of indigenous peoples in those areas is few.
Yet, for many Native Americans, the reason the schools are not under fire for their mascot is not because the mascot isn’t problematic, but because Native American removal and institutionalized racism has provided these schools license to continue using such imagery and names.
Jesse Zamora, Rarámuri (Tarahumara), a member of the Oyate Native American Student Organization at the University of Colorado Boulder, told ICTMN there are little to no Native Americans in these communities to provide information regarding the detrimental impacts of Indian mascots.
“They’re in areas where the Native population is in small numbers or non-existent,” he said. “There’s no voice or perspective from Natives into those local schools to call them out as to what they’re doing wrong and explaining why it’s wrong.”
Colorado is home to long a list of schools which continue to have Native American caricatures as their mascot, Zamora said. Schools such as the Lamar Savages and La Veta Redskins are today subject to continual criticism and petition since Colorado’s Native American population is dense.
Zamora said normalized discrimination of Native Americans in the U.S. is yet another reason why there are thousands of schools with Indian mascots.
“I think the fact that there are 2,000 [schools] that have mascots goes back to [the] wide-spread racism against indigenous peoples – some out of pure ignorance, some out of intentional harm,” he said.
The report on high school mascots was released as the Washington football team faces criticism for its moniker and especially its name, which was found “disparaging” by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in June.
Ryan Redcorn, a member of the sketch troupe the 1491s, told ICTMN that forced relocation depleted the number of Native Americans in these areas and one of the consequences is un-checked Indian mascotry.
“[Native Americans] were intentionally segregated,” he said. “They were moved out.” Redcorn added that people outside of Indian country should be shocked by the ubiquity of Indian mascots, but are not. “The fact that [Indian mascots] are so pervasive should be alarming,” he said.
Redcorn stated that Native American children who attend schools with Indian mascots are discouraged and subject to exclusion by their peers, creating a hostile environment in what should be inclusive institutions. “These schools are enabling [such environments],” he said. “There are real-life consequences.”
He added schools with Indian mascots that are not currently facing criticism shouldn’t receive that as tacit approval from the Native American community at large.