Native American speaks on racism in team mascots

By Hanh Quach

Arizona Daily Wildcat

From behind a podium decorated with fictitious sports team pennants "Pittsburgh Negroes," "Kansas City Jews," and "San Diego Caucasians," a visiting Native American scholar stressed the importance of "undoing racism" in education.

Cornel Pewewardy, of Cameron University in Oklahoma, addressed an audience of 40 yesterday at Gallagher Theatre on the negative impact of using Native American mascots and nicknames in sports and the media.

Controversy over team names gained national attention last month during the World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians.

Pewewardy, who has researched the topic for 15 years, connects the ongoing stereotypes of Native Americans to the negative use of mascots portraying Native Americans with "buckteeth and large noses."

"Mascots, nicknames, the tomahawk chop and Indian princesses like Pocohontas are invented images of persons to favor entertainment," Pewewardy said.

Amanda Carson, education freshman, said she never considered the issue until it was raised recently in her political science class.

"If it offends one Indian, then it's a problem," Carson said.

She attended the lecture to learn more about the issue.

For Michael Ryan, who is half Cherokee Indian, mascots did not pose a problem until protesters at the World Series at Atlanta in 1991 drew his attention.

"Indian people have been trying to validate who we are since Christopher Columbus," he said.

Pewewardy encouraged students to become involved in eliminating the Native American icons, adding that the University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota recently changed their mascots out of respect for the Native American culture.

Pewewardy earned his doctorate in education from Pennsylvania State University in 1989 and received the National Committee for School Desegregation Award in 1992 and the award for National Indian Educator of the Year in 1991.

Pewewardy's lecture was sponsored by the Native American Cultural Resource Center.

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