Has political correctness gone too far?
There is currently uproar in a city not too far away.
A battle is brewing between students, the local school board and some members of a neighbouring First Nation over a school mascot.
No it’s not a chief in a headdress. It’s also not a Native carrying a bow and arrow.
The mascot for the aforementioned school – North Bay’s Chippewa Intermediate and Secondary School – is Joe Raider, a buckskin-wearing male with a headband, which says Chippewa.
It hardly fits the standard tomahawk-wielding caricature most Native mascot are. Many schools, most notably several in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, have voluntarily given up their arguably racist mascots in favour of lighter fare.
According to NCAA.org: “The NCAA policy on Native American mascots does not require member institutions to change their names or mascots. The actual policy precludes member schools with Native American nicknames, mascots, or imagery from hosting NCAA championships. These schools are still eligible to participate in championships, but the policy restricts them from wearing uniforms or other paraphernalia that depict nicknames or images while competing in NCAA championship events.”
Among American colleges and universities affected by the policy were the Alcorn State University Braves, Arkansas State University Indians and University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
Early in the implementation phase, the NCAA granted exceptions for those institutions that carried specific tribal names and received formal support for the use of those names and associated imagery from the tribe. Among those officially endorsed by their namesake tribes were the Catawba College Catawba Indians, Central Michigan University Chippewas, Florida State University Seminoles, Mississippi College Choctaws and University of Utah Utes.
Eleven other schools have changed their nickname, mascot or imagery away from terms including the Redman, Braves, Tribes, Indians and Savages.
Having seen the way some of the mascots carried on in the past with the “Tomahawk Chop” and mocking traditional dance, getting rid of some of these questionable characters is a good thing.
But does Joe Raider fit on this list? Not according to the 1,300 people who joined a Facebook page to save their beloved mascot.
Their effort not withstanding, it sounds like Joe Raider will go the way of ‘Chief Illiniwek’ at the University of Illinois.
According to Near North District School Board, the Chippewa’s identity will be revamped in the wake of complaints.
Kelly Brown, superintendent of schools and programs for Near North District School Board, said changes will be made.
“This is being taken very seriously,” Brown told a North Bay newspaper last week, adding other schools with potentially offensive mascots will be looked at as well. “On the surface we can make quick changes, but like other schools that have animals as mascots, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals could come to them.”
The issue has touched a nerve with Nipissing First Nation Chief Marianna Couchie, who attended a meeting between the school board and school.
“We believe that this issue has provided an opportunity for dialogue and a better understanding of First Nation issues in the North Bay region,” Couchie told the newspaper. “We also believe it was never the intention of the school, its staff or students to denigrate Nipissing First Nation or any Aboriginal people. That being said, we remain concerned about the use of stereotypical images of Aboriginal people.”
That being the case, perhaps professional sports teams should drop their questionable monikers of old.
The Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Reds, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Edmonton Eskimos all still use Native-themed mascots. Some Natives I know support these teams because of their use of First Nation themes while others feel it’s despicable.
In this day of political correctness, it’s interesting the NBA’s Washington Bullets changed their name in 1997 to the Wizards because they didn’t want the negative press associated with gun violence.
Earlier this year, two of the team’s players were suspended and faced charges over handguns being stored in the Wizards’ locker room.
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