History of Native Names and Imagery in Sports

For multiple decades, thousands of Native themed primary education schools throughout the country have proudly sought to associate the admirable qualities of strength, pride, respect, honor, and dignity by having a Native American name and logo to represent their athletic teams. Only in recent decades has there been any organized resistance toward the names and imagery.

The same is true at the collegiate and professional levels. In fact, for decades, these names and images had the near unanimous support from Native Americans. Institutions including Florida State, Central Michigan, Mississippi College, and Utah have had long standing relationships with their local tribes. At the University of North Dakota, a Sacred Sioux Pipe Ceremony was performed in 1969 giving the Fighting Sioux name forever to the university from the Sioux people. At the University of Illinois, their Chief Illiniwek symbol created in 1926 was supported by Frank Fools Crow of the Ogola Lakota Sioux Tribe. In 1982, Fools Crow visited the Illinois campus to present authentic Sioux regalia sewn together by his wife at a ceremony held at half time of a football game. The Peoria Tribe of Indians, the descendants of the Illinois Confederation, supported Chief Illiniwek up until the year 2000.

At the professional ranks, in 1932 an American Indian, William “Lone Star” Dietz suggested the name “Redskins” for a new name for the Boston Braves which is now the Washington Redskins football team. To further show support for the Redskins name and image, former chairman of the Blackfoot Nation and former president of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Walter “Blackie” Wetzel designed the current logo used by the Washington Redskins. Now NCAI claims that the name and logo are “racist.”

All of this begs the question, why after decades of virtually no resistance from Native Americans to the names and imagery in sports, but rather wide spread support, has this controversy erupted out of nowhere only in recent years? If all this were truly "racist" toward Native Americans, would not the outcry have started from the very inception rather than a light seemingly going on several decades later? The answer to these questions are transparent. This is a fake, made up controversy. This manufactured hysteria was concocted by hateful radicals as part of their vengeance campaign against America and it's tradition of proudly associating our nation's Indian heritage with our sports teams. It is absolutely true that many tribal councils have expressed opposition to negative, stereotypical uses of Native names, imagery, and mascots in sports. NAGA likewise opposes all such blatantly negative representations. However, what constitutes negative stereotyping is a matter of opinion and NOT fact.

When comparing the logos (mascots) of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), many, including many Indian people, consider their imagery stereotypical and even cartoonish especially when compared to the popular logos of sports teams such as the Blackhawks, Redskins, Fighting Illini, and Fighting Sioux.

   

These organizations have self-appointed themselves as the undisputed voice of American Indian opinion concerning the names and imagery in sports. These powerful organizations have aligned with many other power players to vocally express their opinion, which is proven to be at odds with the opinion of rank and file Indian people who do not associate with this politically driven movement. Until the formation of NAGA, average Indian people have had nowhere to turn to express their majority opinion. It is truly a situation of, "the powerful versus the people."