As part of Michigan Humanities’ commitment to dialogue around critical issues and their connection to the humanities, we are coordinating Bridging Michigan, an online conversation series this summer and fall with a focus on the history of systemic inequities, their current impacts on health, education, and Indigenous rights, and the ways that the arts and humanities are active parts of creating real change.
On Thursday, September 3, from 7 to 8 p.m. (EDT) join Michigan Humanities for an online conversation featuring Eric Hemenway and Matthew L.M. Fletcher discussing the history and current state of Native mascots.
Television coverage here.
The BYU Education and Law Journal has published “Between a Tomahawk and a Hard Place: Indian mascots and the NCAA” by Stephanie Jade Bollinger. [pdf]
Thus, a reviewing court should find that agreements between Native American tribes and Universities granting approval for the use of Indian names as mascots should be void as against public policy. If the approval is found to be void, the NCAA would have a harder time basing approval as the primary factor for exemptions from its own mascot policy at championship games. Without the mascot exemption, more universities may decide to eliminate their use of Indian mascots and, in doing so, discontinue the harmful effects from their use of Indian mascots.
Angela R. Riley and Kristen A. Carpenter have published “Owning Red: A Theory of Indian (Cultural) Appropriation” (PDF) in the Texas Law Review.
Here is the abstract:
In a number of recent controversies, from sports teams’ use of Indian mascots to the federal government’s desecration of sacred sites, American Indians have lodged charges of “cultural appropriation” or the unauthorized use by members of one group of the cultural expressions and resources of another. While these and other incidents make contemporary headlines, American Indians often experience these claims within a historical and continuing experience of dispossession. For hundreds of years, the U.S. legal system has sanctioned the taking and destruction of Indian lands, artifacts, bodies, religions, identities, and beliefs, all toward the project of conquest and colonization. Indian resources have been devalued by the law and made available for non-Indians to use for their own purposes. Seeking redresses for the losses caused by these actions, tribes have brought claims under a variety of laws, from trademark and copyright to the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment, and some have been more successful than others. As a matter of property law, courts have compensated—albeit incompletely—the taking of certain Indian lands and have also come to recognize tribal interests in human remains, gravesites, and associated artifacts. When it comes to intangible property, however, the situation is more complicated. It is difficult for legal decision makers and scholars alike to understand why Indian tribes should be able to regulate the use of Indian names, symbols, and expressions. Indeed, non-Indians often claim interests, sounding in free speech and the public domain, in the very same resources. To advance understanding of this contested area of law, Professor Riley and Professor Carpenter situate intangible cultural property claims in a larger history of the legal dispossession of Indian property—a phenomenon they call “Indian appropriation.” It then evaluates these claims vis-à-vis prevailing legal doctrine and offers a normative view of solutions, both legal and extralegal.
Here. An excerpt:
When I raised my hand to vote in a classroom at Neshaminy High School nearly 18 months ago, I was unaware of the battle I was about to ignite as editor-in-chief of The Playwickian, my school’s newspaper. In the fall of 2013, one of my fellow editors began a conversation about our school mascot, which is also the name of every sports team at our school and our school’s nickname. This would soon become a national controversy over our use of a racist mascot and a legal battle over the amount of control students have over their publications in public schools.
This mascot is the “Redskin.” It has been consistently criticized by a Native American parent within our Pennsylvania school district for its derogatory and hateful connotation. The paper’s staff and I came to a consensus that we should listen to what this parent had to say and start a conversation about the future use of the mascot, given how offensive it is to Native Americans. We debated, did our research, and ultimately came to a vote—14-7—in favor of removing the mascot—and the football team’s name—entirely from our newspaper, essentially forming a new policy. Both the majority and the dissenting sides wrote editorials, and we went to press Oct. 23, 2013.—Brent Greenwood for Education Week; image text from Winona Daily Republican, 1863
As the editor-in-chief since 2013, I continue to face reproach for this decision, including the possibility of criminal charges, as well as a lot of social-media bashing by my peers and the parents in my school district.