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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Using Native Americans as a Symbol: Disrespect or Honor?

This topic hits home for me. I grew up 15 miles from the Mohawk Indian reservation in Massena, New York. A small little North Country town. And as far as I know, we have always been the Red Raiders. Our symbol... well... it used to be cool. It used to be a red Indian Chief, with a big head dress. Instead of trying to describe it, let me show you...

Massena Central School's old Raider Head logo

It was our history. Most sports teams in Massena have dominated at some points. Whether it be the football team of the 70's or the hockey team who won states in 2008. This symbol has represented our school through it all. It was highly respected and recognized for decades. During my time in Massena Central School, the administration changed our logo due to complaints from a select group of Native Americans from the Mohawk Reservation. And let me tell you... the new logo is far from spectacular, but I'll let you be the judge of that...

Massena Central School's new logo, the big M

Being so close to the Reservation, Massena Central School has a large group of Mohawk students. During my time there, I befriended many of them. Out of all the Mohawks I talked to, not a single one of them had a problem with the Raider Head. They thought it was awesome.

This is my point, not just regarding the Massena logo change, but any logo change that has taken place at a school or on a sports team. I don't understand why the Native Americans find these logos to be so offensive. We are honoring them. It isn't like we are trying to make fun of them or mock them by using them as a sports logo... We used a Native American symbol to represent what we stand for. Perseverance, will, motivation, intelligence, good conduct, skill... the list goes on and on. We used that Native American Chief head to represent all of those qualities and we respected it. This is why I don't understand why it is such an issue.

What sparked me to write this post was the most recent (ever-present) call for the Washington Redskins to change their name and symbol. Now, as a Cowboys fan, I hold a deep respect for the Redskins. Changing their symbol is changing history. I get that this is different, because they are referring to a race by a color stereotype, but still. The Redskins are the Redskins. When you think of the Redskins, you think of dominance, respect, and integrity. Nothing else. I don't see what is wrong with that. I am glad that Roger Goodell has stepped up to the plate to defend the name. It is about time someone did.

Enough from me. I want to get your input. Should these names and logos be changed? Is it disrespectful to use the Native Americans as symbols? How far can this go? If you are a Native American reading this, do you agree or disagree? It seems that as time goes on, our society gets more carried away with what is/isn't socially acceptable... What do you think?

See what Roger Goodell had to say about the Redskin's name here!