It is time the University of Utah end the misappropriation of Native American traditions, customs and symbols and retire the "Drum and Feather" logo and "Ute" nickname.
For decades, Native Americans and non-Native Americans from across the nation have protested the use of Native American mascots, nicknames and logos citing the discriminatory and harmful nature of such images. By allowing University of Utah students and fans to wear Native American headdresses, paint their faces red and “play Indian” throughout campus, at tailgating events and in the football stadium, the University of Utah is unilaterally allowing the denigration and mockery of Native American traditions, customs and religious symbols.
Research clearly establishes that use of such imagery misrepresents Native Americans and perpetuates the ongoing discrimination against Native Americans, negatively impacts student learning, and creates a hostile learning environment (Fryberg et al., 2003, 2008; Kim-Prieto, Goldstein, Okazaki, and Kirschner, 2010). And whether intended or not, the use of mascots, logos and nicknames stereotype, marginalize, intimidate and harm Native American students and undermines the educational experience of all students especially those who have little or no contact with Native Americans (2005 APA Resolution).
Native Americans have the lowest high school graduation rates across the nation and are the smallest population represented in postsecondary education. The perpetuation of harmful stereotypes through the use of nicknames and logos only exacerbate these problems. This is evident at the University of Utah where it has never seen enrollment surpass 187 Native American students in the past five years (University of Utah Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis). The stereotyping of any racial or ethnic group by any institution is unacceptable. Schools have a responsibility to educate their students, they should not use their influence to perpetuate misrepresentations of any culture or people (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights).
This is why the Indigenous Students and Allies for Change (ISAC) call for the immediate retirement of the “Drum and Feather” logo and “Ute” nickname. It is time the University of Utah educate our student body about modern day Indigenous peoples and promote a safe and respectful learning environment that is conducive to the educational attainment of all students.
"The fact is, if somebody is hurt, if one person in this room is hurt from all that - I think, racism - then we have to listen. We have to listen to that one person." - Dennis Banks, Ojibwe leader and co-founder of the American Indian Movement (AIM), on use of "Drum and Feather" logo and "Ute" nickname.