Dr. Treuer Campaigns For The Elimination Of All Indian-Related Mascots In Sports

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Dr. Anton Treuer, the executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University in Minnesota, thinks all Indian references, as sports mascots, should be eliminated.

Treuer visited Ohio University this week and gave the keynote address as part of the university’s celebration of American Indian Month.

Treuer believes that all references to American Indians in sports mascots are demeaning and create a non-inclusive and sometimes threatening environment at sporting events.

He discussed wide-ranging problems raised by the use of American Indians and other ethnic groups as mascots.  His viewpoint is much broader than the popular arguments against the Washington Redskins in the NFL and the Chief Wahoo caricature used by the Cleveland Indians. He also would ban references like baseball’s Atlanta Braves and the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs.

“I go beyond some of my colleagues and believe that all sports mascots that involve humans or groups of people should not be allowed,” Treuer said in an interview with WOUB. “It objectifies whole groups and races of people and that should not be permitted.”

He cited an example of what he considers human degradation.

“The home team fans, with an Indian mascot, do demeaning things like the “Tomahawk Chop” and chants and the opposing fans make degrading or threatening references to Native Americans and their pain and historical struggles,” Treuer said.

“This is not a sporting environment where I would want to take my children.  What would they think if they heard such things?” he added.

Treuer addresses this issue in greater depth in his book Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask. It is one of his 13 books on Native American issues.

He says that he believes public awareness of the offensive nature of Indian mascots is growing.  He points to a recent demonstration in Minnesota where some 5,000 people protested Washington’s  use of the term “Redskins” in the NFL.  He notes that term is, by all definitions, a “racial slur.”

He also is heartened by the fact that some African American athletes, especially in the NFL, are now speaking out against the use of such mascots.

Treuer believes it will take a united front of people from all races to eliminate these demeaning and insensitive names and images.

If you want to listen to an extended conversation with Dr. Treuer click here.