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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


March 23, 2002 - Issue 57


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Students Put Twist on Mascots

by Staff and Wire Reports
credits: Steven R. Nickerson © News Solomon Little Owl, director of Native American Student Services at the University of Northern Colorado, chose the mascot "The Fighting Whities" for his intramural basketball team. A group combating stereotypes provided them with T-shirts with the name "The Fighting Whites," but the nickname evolved into Whities.
Solomon Little OwlIndian students in Colorado have turned the tables in a debate on racism by naming their intramural basketball team "The Fighting Whities."

The students, at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, chose a white man as a mascot after failing to persuade nearby Eaton High School to drop a nickname they say offends them.

"The message is, let's do something that will let people see the other side of what it's like to be a mascot," said Solomon Little Owl, director of Native American Student Services at UNC.

The intramural team includes Native Americans, Hispanics and Anglos. They wear jerseys that say, "Every thang's going to be all white."

"It's not meant to be vicious; it is meant to be humorous," said Ray White, a Mohawk team member. "It puts people in our shoes, and then we can say, 'Now you know how it is, and now you can make a judgment.' "

The Eaton school uses an Indian caricature on its logo and calls its teams the Reds. Superintendent John Nuspl said the logo is not derogatory. "Their interpretations are an insult to our patrons and blatantly inaccurate," he said. "There's no mockery of Native Americans with this."

In South Dakota, the issue has simmered for years. Harold Salway, former Oglala Sioux chairman in Pine Ridge, said some believe the names are meant to honor Indians. "Others look at it as a gross denigration. I fall into the second camp," Salway said. "We, as Native Americans, have too much reverence for ourselves to parlay our likenesses into the sports arena."

Of the Colorado team, Salway said, "Maybe it's their way of fighting fire with fire."

Perry Ford, men's basketball coach at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, said, "I don't think any group should use any nickname that other people find offensive."

Charles Cuny, a member of the team in Greeley, went to a high school called the Red Cloud Crusaders, named for a Lakota leader. "We live in a politically correct society, and sometimes Indians get overlooked," he said. "There are so few Indians who have clout that there are a lot of things that go unsettled."

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