HAUDENOSAUNEE STATEMENT ON MASCOTS
The Nation regards the depiction of natives as mascots defamatory to
our people. In brief, here are a few of the reasons why:
Non-native peoples tend to view animals as beneath humans. Since
most mascots are animals, people equivocate between teams and their
mascots. Their mascot is just as good as the next. Or our mascot
is better than your mascot and therefore you have the belief that
the Bears are superior to the Indians.
Mascots tend to suspend natives in time. When our white brothers
first entered the land, they saw the young Onondaga men as fierce,
bold, tough, and dressed in animal skins. Today, young Onondaga men
and women have intricate and beautiful regalia worn for the Creator
and also modern clothing worn to suit going to high school, college
and earning a living.
Mascots are stereotypical. In trying to understand a different culture
of people of various languages, government, and clothing, native
people were lumped into one generic figure that could be identified
as “Indian.” Therefore
mascots are usually not representative of the Haudenosaunee people.
Fighting and skin color is not our only positive trait. Although
it is true that Onondaga and its Haudenosaunee allies have proven
themselves in battle, there are other gifts that we are thankful
for. Onondagas honor and foster many other traits such as diplomacy,
artisans, educators, agriculturists, hunters, musicians, architects,
and philosophers to name a few. The Creator gives us all a special
gift and it is the combination of all these gifts that make us the
complex diverse nation of people we are today.
Natives are the only race depicted as mascots. Society has recognized
the inappropriateness of cultures being made into caricatures, put
on helmets, t-shirts and bumper stickers. The fact that schools and
organizations have “always” been the Braves, Chiefs,
Red Men, Warriors, or Indians, does not give the community the right
to defame a culture.
The Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs has long held the belief
that mascots are offensive. In 1970, the chiefs met with Syracuse
University about the Saltine Warrior mascot. The chiefs recognized
the responsibility of the University to be culturally respectful.
The depiction of an Indian running around in leather and a Sioux
war bonnet was not only incorrect, but offensive. The chiefs explained
that there was no dignity within the native community when the
Saltine Warrior meets and jousts with wildcats, hogs, bulldogs
in front of thousands of people. After a year of negations, the
Chancellor agreed with the Onondaga leaders that the Saltine Warrior
mascot was offensive and was removed.