Change Ohatchee High School’s Mascot
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The appropriation of the Native culture by people who are not native and do not exist in a tribe has overwhelmingly shown to offend Native American people for a multitude of reasons.
"The headdress is reserved for our revered elders who, through their selflessness and leadership, have earned the right to wear one. It’s a spiritual garb, not just cultural; it's not merely an addition to one's attire. Wearing one, even an imitation headdress, belittles what our elders have spent a lifetime to earn." -- Simon Moya-Smith, citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and journalist
"Both feathers and face paint have purpose and often spiritual significance depending on tribal protocol and individual interpretation. In Native cultures, both feathers and face paint are earned through actions and deeds that bring honor to both tribes and nations. Individuals [outside the community] who wear feathers or face paint were not given the rights or permissions to wear them. This is analogous to casually wearing a purple heart or medal of honor that was not earned." -- Dennis Zotigh, Cultural Specialist, National Museum of the American Indian
"[Wearing a headdress] could be similar to if the [shtreimel] became hip. Or the headdress that the pope wears -- if [kids] started wearing that, if that became a trend. I am sure any Catholic people might be disrespected. So for our people, it is the same way." -- Cliff Matias, Director of Redhawk Native American Arts Council
Not only is the mascot problematic, but for decades the mascot has been more often than not, a Caucasian male or female of the student body and always somebody who is not in a tribe. They wear a full Native American headdress which is a sacred symbol of strength and bravery and have been primarily reserved for the tribes political and spiritual leaders.
The name 'Big red' originates from the pejorative terms 'R**s***' and 'Red Indian.'
These terms have a well established history of being used contemptuously with negative connotation. Dictionary definitions are virtually unanimous that it is no longer acceptable to use and an “entirely benign” term. The Oxford American dictionary says, “r**s*** lost its neutral, accurate descriptive sense and became a term of disparagement.” It now calls it “dated” and “offensive.” Merriam Webster identified the term as “often contemptuous” as early as its 1898 Collegiate version.
The etymology of the pejorative term is much more troubling. Newspapers dating back to 1863 show the use of the word as a slur to refer to those who are called to be killed for bounty. The fact remains that to many Native Americans, the term "r**s***" has long meant the act of our ancestor's scalps being collected for bounty.
Kevin Gover, a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and director of the Institution's National Museum of the American Indian shared these words while discussing the use of the slur:
"I'm really not that interested in where the word comes from. I know how it was used. And it's been used in a disparaging way for at least a couple of centuries. Up to and including the time I was growing up in Oklahoma."
The usage of these terms and those that have derived from them as well as the appropriations of Native American culture have been proven to be harmful to Native American people who are subject to witnessing their communities appropriate, disrespect, and dehumanize their culture. The appropriation and characterization of their tribes has pushed stereotypical ideas and attitudes about Native people and have harmful effects on the self-esteem and self-identities of Native American youths.
The American Psychological Association passed a resolution calling for the “immediate retirement” of Native American names and mascots in 2005. The American Sociological Association followed in 2007, saying that “social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport harm Native American people in psychological, educational, and social ways.”
The superintendent of Calhoun County Schools is Donald Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org is his email. The principal of the high school is Bobby Tittle, email@example.com is his email. The assistant principal is Michael Graham, firstname.lastname@example.org is his email.
Definitions on "r**s***":
1863 newspaper placing bounty on scalps of native Americans:
documentation of psychological problems caused by stereotypes -Dr. Mike Friedman:
APA Resolution Recommending the Immediate Retirement of
American Indian Mascots, Symbols, Images, and Personalities by
Schools, Colleges, Universities, Athletic Teams, and Organizations:
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