To cap off Native American Heritage month, the Multicultural Center will host a lecture on mascot names.
With November designated as Native American Heritage Month, representations of American Indians in satirical cartoons and the controversial topic of sports teams’ mascots raging in national debate, Thursday’s lecture could not be more timely.
Thursday, Anton Treuer, executive director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University, Minnesota, will lecture on the insensitive truths of mascots, as well as other issues in his talk, “Change the Mascot.”
Treuer is Ojibwe, and has published various books including the recently-released Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Borealis Books). The book targets a wide audience to inform those on facts and cultures many readers may have no prior knowledge of or have not experienced.
The argument centers on the name change of the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Interested parties have taken sides as team owners, activists and even celebrities expressed their statements on the issue. Treuer said he will be touching on the mascot changes, but also wanted to open up the conversation for other subjects.
“The British-designed education system that we still use today. I find it interesting most people get a sugarcoated version of Christopher Columbus and the first Thanksgiving,” Treuer said. “There’s 10,000 years of documented history in Ohio, and we start it with the first history of the white guys.”
Treuer reasons the defense of honoring American Indians through team names is a ruled-out excuse, including the Cleveland Indians.
“(The name) needs to change. All they’re doing is sugar coating their acceptance of the term.”
A Cleveland.com poll revealed 70 percent of respondents wanted to keep Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo, while 28 percent were against keeping the cartooned mascot.
“People are emotionally wedded to the mascots for their home teams. I think sometimes that plows our ability to look past that and see that is offensive to some people,” Treuer said. “If someone can find one Indian that says, ‘It doesn’t bother me,’ then, to them, that’s more the reason to keep it. That can be confusing and send mixed messages.”
According to the National Center for Education Statistics IPEDS Peer Analysis System, only 0.2 percent of students affiliate themselves as Native American at Ohio University.
“Although our numbers are low, I think it’s still important to celebrate, highlight and talk about Native American Heritage Month. It is rooted in our history,” said Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center. “Our students need to be exposed. Our general education is designed to get a broad-based exposure to as many different cultures as possible.”