2018-07-12 / Voices

Revisiting The Mascot Issue


Since about 2002, I have attempted to sort out an official position on the Native American mascot debate.

My clearest thought on this topic is that, today, there is no place for racially derived caricatures on sports uniforms. That is simple.

I think most reasonable Americans would agree. The more useful question however is how important is this conversations to the lives of people living on reservations. Personally, I’ve never in my life had a random conversation with someone in my community about how hurt and saddened we were by a professional sports team.

What is more of a concern to me is how so many of my contemporaries in the Native media have used the mascot issue to carve out a place in the mainstream news themselves by playing this caricature. I sort of find it ironic every time I see the new generation of angry Indians on the mainstream news shouting at the tops of their lungs about this issue. While it has presented them with a route to a national platform, our people living on reservations would better be served by having important social issues like crime and addiction highlighted.

What I have come to believe is that the mascot issue is sort of a catch all issue for anyone who wants to endear themselves to our community. It is low hanging fruit. There need not be any significant connection to an actual reservation community to pretend to be angered and outraged by the continued use of Native American themed mascots. This is the reason why so many of these “Native” journalists have entered this debate. It provides the opportunity to be armchair activists and it is an issue that the CNNs of the world will sometimes cover. Who does this benefit though? The journalist? Or the people?

As someone who comes from a community who suffers from the miscarriage of justice on regular occasion, the impact of colonially created institutions, as well as addiction, I feel that these topics should be what are raised.

Society is already moving in a direction where professional teams will no longer be able to present a marketable and profitable product that uses racial caricatures. Will these people then be forced to provide comment on the stories that actually matter to the people living in the heart of Indian Country?

Native owned outlets like Lakota Country Times have been committed to writing about the most important and impactful news occurring, right here, on the Oglala Lakota nation. Let’s hope that others working in our business can take a cue from us and report on something that matters to our people.

Brandon Ecoffey is the former editor of LCT and is an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Oglala Lakota nation.

Brandon Ecoffey is the former editor of LCT and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He is also the owner of Bad Face Consulting and a cohost on the Bad Face Consulting Podcast presented by Native Hope.

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