Pros and Cons of Indian Mascots

One baseball historian traced the Atlanta Braves' name to a political machine.
... DigtialStorm/iStock/Getty Images

Indians, Redskins, Chiefs, Blackhawks and Braves are all terms that refer to Native Americans, and they're also used as mascots for many middle and high schools, colleges and pro sports teams. Controversy persists regarding the use of such terms, however, as some people view them as being disrespectful or derogatory to Native American people. In spite of these potential drawbacks, a few benefits come with use of these names, motivating sports organizations to choose them in the first place.

1 Honoring Native Americans

Some schools and sports teams chose a Native American mascot name with the intent to honor this population of people, as well as to educate the public about the importance of these populations. Another intent is to teach about the history of Native Americans and their contributions to the early settlers or to honor an individual Native American that holds an important place in history. To support this argument, consider the team names based on religion, such as the Saints, or the names based on other historical cultures, such as the Vikings and Celtics, which are less of a controversial topic, the Psychology Today website notes.

2 Demonstrating Pride

Choosing a Native American mascot is a way to encourage cultural diversity, though no professional teams have chosen Indian mascots since 1963, according to the National Congress of American Indians. When a school or sports team chooses an Indian mascot, they are often doing so because the team emulates the characteristics they wish to embody in their team, even if they aren't based on facts.

3 Breeding Resentment and Disrespect

Certain Indian mascots, such as the NFL Washington Redskins, can be viewed as disrespectful or derogatory. In fact, in 2013, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the team's name. Using Indian mascots causes Native Americans to feel that sports teams are making a mockery of their way of life and marginalizing the way they were treated by white settlers. The mascots can also impair race relations in the United States, claims Stephanie Fryberg, a cultural and social psychology scholar, based on studies she's completed. Indian mascots can damage the perception of Native Americans on the parts of the Native Americans themselves, as well as other populations of people, according to an article in Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

4 Stereotyping

Indian mascots can lead to stereotyping of Native Americans. For example, the name "Redskins" suggests that all Native Americans had red skin, which isn't the case. Similarly, not all Native American tribes were considered warriors, and many actually tried to avoid fighting at all costs. The mascots can also misrepresent Native Americans and cause other people to believe untrue claims, such as that they are all savages, according to the National Congress of American Indians.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.