Redskins, Confederate Flags and the Mukwonago Indian‚ Nickname and Logo

Dear Editor,

If you show respect for a symbol that promotes stereotyping, harassment and discrimination does that take away the harm? If you replicate that symbol is more or less harm done? If you claim that you mean no harm when you use it, does the harm go away?

My friend Mark says this is sort of like the Confederate flag in the South. Some people, mostly whites, claim that it is a symbol of resilience, bravery and pride.  Others say that it symbolizes white power, slavery and segregation. Does the fact that it is raised respectfully with a dignified flag ceremony every day change its symbolic meaning? If a plaque is hung next to every Confederate flag that says, “This flag is a symbol of resilience, bravery and pride and is in no way intended to promote white power, slavery or segregation. In fact, we honor and welcome black people here.” would the symbolic meaning of the flag match the slogan?

I hope Mark’s metaphor helps move understanding about the use of the race-based Indian‚ name and logo in Mukwonago. It helped me understand the issue better.

Symbols like the Indian head in profile are called “severed head” logos. They have been used at various times in the colonial period and in later U.S. history to designate a place where whole bodies, heads and later scalps of Indian people (men, women and children) could be brought in for bounty payment. Blood stained scalps gave rise to the term “redskins.” The bounty practice is one reason why many American Indian people are so opposed to the use of these logos. Bounty payments are about death and genocide not about athletic games and academic and music competitions. When I see one of these symbols I see a bounty marker, what do you see?

Research by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg and many others proves that Indian nickname and logo stereotypes are a form of discrimination. Dr. Jesse Steinfeldt and others show that these stereotypes lead to harassment. Dr. Chu Kim-Prieto demonstrates that these stereotypes lead to a tendency to stereotype other minority groups. Four State Superintendents have urged Wisconsin school districts to review their use of American Indian logos, nicknames and mascots. Why would anyone want to continue to use symbols that are proven to cause harm to children in public school settings?

Barbara E. Munson (Oneida)
Wisconsin Indian Education Assc.                            
“Indian” Mascot and Logo Taskforce
231 Steeple Road
Mosinee, Wisconsin 54455