A Special Message and Invitation on School Mascots

Greetings Iowa school leaders, school board members, and community members:

We, the undersigned Tribal Nations and local and national Native organizations, call upon you – the 66 K-12 schools in the state of Iowa with Native “themed” school mascots – to retire your mascots.

With recent events casting a spotlight on the well-documented harms caused by race-based mascots and a corresponding increase in related discussions at the school district level, we believe it appropriate to share with you Indian Country’s long-standing opposition to the continued use of Native “themed” mascots.

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), as the oldest, largest, and most representative national organization representing Tribal Nations and their citizens, has been leading Indian Country’s consensus-driven movement to eradicate offensive Native “themed” mascots from sports and popular culture for more than 50 years. NCAI’s resolutions – which present the unified voice of hundreds of Tribal Nations – have consistently conveyed Indian Country’s clear desire to see these mascots retired so that the schools our children attend may provide an inclusive, equitable, and supportive learning environment for all students.

Critically, the formal position of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation), the only federally recognized Tribal Nation in the state, is categorically “against the use of Native American terms or images or symbols for sports or other marketing uses.” Additionally, other federally recognized Tribal Nations – including the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska – with ties to the state of Iowa have taken similar positions against the use of Native American names, imagery, symbols, and customs as school mascots. So, too, have key Native organizations that serve Native people residing in the state, including the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs.

As the Meskwaki Nation has publicly addressed, if supporters of these mascots look hard enough, they will be able to find individuals who support their cause. However, when taken as a whole, the will of Indian Country is clear – Native “themed” mascots and the dehumanizing stereotypes they perpetuate must go. Out of respect for tribal sovereignty, we ask that you heed the voices of tribal leaders representing hundreds of Tribal Nations and the organizations that serve their citizens – not the voices of a few select individuals – when seeking to understand where Indian Country broadly stands on this issue.

To that end, we invite you to begin a dialogue with us so you can learn about contemporary Tribal Nations and peoples and why these mascots degrade us, misrepresent who we are, and dismiss the many important contributions we have made – and continue to make – to this great country. Moreover, know that we are committed to working with you to expand and strengthen the curriculum your schools teach future generations of Iowans about Tribal Nations and peoples, particularly the undersigned Nations.

If you wish to have such a discussion, please email the National Congress of American Indians at mascots@ncai.org. Meanwhile, please find below selected resources that provide additional details about our long-standing opposition to the use of these mascots, as well as the harms that they cause:

NCAI “Ending ‘Indian’ Mascots” Initiative

NCAI “Ending the Legacy of Rac​ism” Report

NCAI Native “Themed” School Mascot National Tracking Database: The Current Numbers

Study finds only harmful effects from Native themed mascots

NCAI Commends Announcement by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Franchise of Its New Name “Guardians”

NCAI Statement on Washington Football Team’s Retirement of Racist Mascot

American Psychological Association Resolution: Retiring American Indian Mascots

National Education Association Resolution: Supporting Removal of Native Themed Mascots

National Indian Education Association Resolution: Elimination of Race-Based Indian Logos, Mascots, and Names

NCAI 2020 Resolution: Support for the Elimination of Race-Based Native Logos, Mascots, Names, Behaviors and Practices

NCAI 2014 Resolution: Urging the U.S. Secretary of Education to Take Substantive Action Regarding Schools with “Native” Sports Stereotypes

NCAI: Learn About Tribal Nations, Citizenship, History, and Contemporary Issues

National Museum of the American Indian: Changing the Narrative about Native Americans (Webinar)

National Museum of the American Indian: Native American Is Not a Costume

Why Educators Can’t Ignore Indian Mascot​s

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Judith Bender

Chairwoman

Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation)

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Larry Wright

Chairman

Ponca Tribe of Nebraska

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Dante Desiderio

Chief Executive Officer

National Congress of American Indians

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Christine Campbell

Executive Director

American Indian Council