Thursday, March 22, 2007

American Sociological Association statement on Native American nicknames, logos, and mascots

On March 6th, 2007, the American Sociological Association issued a statement about the use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sports programs. Here's some excepts from the statement, which you can read in its entirety by clicking here or going to their website and putting "mascots" in the search box. Their statement is similar to the one issued last year by the American Psychological Association. (See my post about it here or in the section to the right of this page, called Posts about Stereotypical Images.)

WHEREAS social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport reflect and reinforce misleading stereotypes of Native Americans in both past and contemporary times;

WHEREAS the stereotypes embedded in Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport undermine education about the lives of Native American peoples;

WHEREAS social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport harm Native American people in psychological, educational, and social ways;

And it concludes with:

AND, WHEREAS the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport has been condemned by numerous reputable academic, educational and civil rights organizations, and the vast majority of Native American advocacy organizations, including but not limited to: American Anthropological Association, American Psychological Association, North American Society for the Sociology of Sport, Modern Language Association, United States Commission on Civil Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Association of American Indian Affairs, National Congress of American Indians, and National Indian Education Association;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, THAT THE AMERICAN SOCIOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION calls for discontinuing the use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport.


Two of my favorite Native authors have incorporated themes related to mascots into their books. They are Joseph Bruchac's The Heart of a Chief, and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Rain Is Not My Indian Name.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting the 'Indian' Out of the Cupboard: Using Information Literacy to Promote Critical Thinking, by Rhonda Harris Taylor and Lotsee Patterson

In the December 2000 issue of Teacher Librarian is "Getting the 'Indian' out of the Cupboard: Using Information Literacy to Promote Critical Thinking," an excellent article by two Native women at the University of Oklahoma's School of Library and Information Science, Rhonda Harris Taylor and Lotsee Patterson.

In the article, they talk about many resources that will be helpful to librarians, teachers, and parents working towards helping children learn how to recognize stereotypical or biased characterizations of American Indians. These resources include videos as well as print and on-line publications. I've added this article to my list of articles on the right-hand side of this page. UPDATE: 1/30/2011....  Teacher Librarian reconfigured their website and the article is no longer available online to the public. Anyone with access to a library that carries Teacher Librarian can get it that way, but for those who don't have that option, I've got a pdf copy of it and will send it directly to you by email. My address is dreese dot nambe at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eighth Graders Analyze SIGN OF THE BEAVER

[Note: This essay submitted by Karen, a classroom teacher, in response to my post (on March 17th) about using Caddie Woodlawn to teach about stereotypes.]

My students and I have done critical analysis much like this, years ago with Sign of the Beaver, and more recently with a history textbook's chapter on the Civil War. I was working with 8th graders in a Title I pull-out language arts and social studies class when we analyzed Sign of the Beaver. The history text analysis was done with my fifth/sixth grade class last year. We also think critically about historical events, looking at them from the perspectives of ordinary people affected by the decisions of those in power.

The one piece that I found essential to have in place before analysis of Sign of the Beaver was a thorough grounding in culturally authentic literature. Living and teaching in southern Vermont, most of my students are white. Before my students can think critically about stereotypes in literature, they need to see literature that's positive and authentic. That's equally true for the very few students who have strong Native ties or are black or Asian as for the white students.

Having said that, I think the analysis of specific chapters and passages in Sign of the Beaver was also successful because, as you suggest, we didn't read it as a novel or as literature, we just read those passages, largely comparing the ways in which Attean's speech, his grandfather's speech and that of Matt are described. The students, given to me to teach because they'd been unengaged in the "regular ed" classrooms, were vocal and articulate in their responses to Speare's depiction of Attean's speech as grunts. I can still hear their voices, 18 years later, as they "talked back" to Speare.

I don't do this more often for a couple of reasons: -first, with only so much time, I do want to make sure my students get that authentic literature. I'm reading Hidden Roots right now to my class. -second, even in snippets, literature is so powerful and can be so powerfully painful. When most of the kids are white, the possibilities of pain for others are so much greater, as my own sons (we're a multiwhateverish background family, black, white, Mi'kmaq, and mystery genes) have let me know. Thinking critically about historical events and about texts somehow doesn't hurt as much as the literature can.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Paul Chaat Smith is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation of Oklahoma. He and Robert Warrior wrote Like a Hurricane, the Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. Published in 1996, it ought to be used in every high school class that looks at the Civil Rights Movement. Alcatraz was occupied by American Indians in the late 1960s. It inspired Native people to take action at sites across the country in the 70s.

I’ve recently found Smith’s website, Fear of a Red Planet. It includes Exile on Main Street, which is Smith’s cyberbook. I want to draw you attention to his essay,  “Home of the Brave.” In it, he talks about some of America’s favorite books, ones that masquerade as being by or about American Indians: Susan Jeffers’s Brother Eagle Sister Sky, and Forrest Carter’s The Education of Little Tree. Here’s an excerpt from his essay:
Indians have been erased from the Master Narrative of this country, and replaced by the cartoon images that all of us know and most of us believe. At different times the narrative has said we didn't exist and the land was empty, then it was mostly empty and populated by fearsome savages, then populated by noble savages who couldn't get with the program, and on and on. Today the equation is Indian equals spiritualism and environmentalism. In twenty years it will probably be something else.
Visit his website. Read the entire essay. And, reconsider how you use Brother Eagle Sister Sky, or The Education of Little Tree.

Note: There is discussion of Brother Eagle Sister Sky in the article Jean Mendoza and I wrote for the journal, Early Childhood Research & Practice. The article is called "Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls." It is listed under "ARTICLES" (right side of this page) or you can click here to get to it.

Sunday, March 18, 2007