U of S staff want an end to using Indigenous mascots at schools
Article: Paige Kreutzwieser – Staff Writer
Staff at one Saskatchewan university are looking for change.
The Department of Educational Foundations at the University of Saskatchewan issued a statement on Nov. 15 requesting schools stop the use of Indigenous people as mascots, logos, slogans and team names.
“As a department focused on pedagogy, research and community engagement relating to Indigenous peoples, social and ecological justice, we unanimously support and recommend the immediate retirement of such caricatures.”
In a CTV interview, Professor Paul Orlowski said he hopes to see this statement gain some attention.
“We are just a department. It would be nice to see the College of Education support it, and then the whole university.”
This all hinges on the activism of people, like Erica Lee, who are fighting for change.
Lee is one of the administrators and organizers for the “Change Redmen” campaign. According to their Facebook page, they want to see Bedford Road’s mascot – the Redmen – gone.
“The name ‘Redmen’ is not an honour to Indigenous people, reducing their history to offensive and archaic symbols.”
The page continues on to say that public schools should not use offensive slang terms for Indigenous people, as they should not be a place that fosters harmful stereotypes.
Jesse Rae Archibald-Barber, Professor at the First Nations University of Canada, agrees that using Indigenous mascots is a concern.
“[Indigenous] sports team names and mascots is an issue of cultural appropriate and ownership of an ethnic identity.”
He says the use of these stereotypical images feeds a repeating affirmation.
“Those kind of images reduce ethnic groups to acquaint images . . .which are often derived from colonial and racial slurs. And continuing to use them as such perpetuates the idea that it is still ok to appropriate Indigenous people.”
Bedford is not the only school in Saskatchewan to be using Indigenous figures. Regina’s Balfour Collegiate uses Redmen as their mascot. Internationally, the list is even longer. Major League Baseball – Cleveland Indians. The National Hockey League – Chicago Blackhawks. The National Football League – Kansas City Chiefs and (most notably due to recent controversy over changing their mascot) the Washington Redskins.
“The owners of the Washington Redskins and their fans may themselves not be racist or using it for racist reasons,” explains Archibald-Barber, “but the images themselves have deeper roots dating back to a racist era.”
But Archibald-Barber says opinions against changing mascots and logos speaks to how deeply imbedded racial structures are.
“Many people are largely unconscious of the effect those images have.”
People like Lee have been fighting for change for many years. Archibald-Barber doesn’t know exactly why it is taking so long to make changes, but he knows this fight has been going on for decades.
“One reason why it takes so long is because popular culture and Hollywood still use these stereotypes widely and generally for the amusement of society in general.”
He says the First Nations University has not collectively made a statement against the use of Indigenous people as mascots, but as an educational institution itself, they really speaks against it and continue to work as a place for empowerment of education.