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Allison Stark
Professor Ross-Stroud
English 252
23 October 2015
Importance of Naming Mascots
On September 20th, 2011, Menomonie High School announced their new mascot: the
Mustang (Powers, 2014). Menomonie had been the Indians for generations, carrying a tradition
with the name. When settlers first came to Menomonie, they found Indians-specifically the
Menomonee Indian tribe. After naming the city after the tribe, the school decided to keep the
roots by naming the mascot “Indians” (History). The sudden change in mascot beckons the
question: why? According to WEAU news, “After complaints about the use of race based
nicknames were filed at other Wisconsin schools, the Menomonie School Board took action. It
decided to change its Indians mascot before it received any complaints” (Peterson).
However, there is more to the story. “In 1996 the Menomonie school board voted to
replace the longtime Indians nickname with Mustangs” (Powers, 2014). The board originally
decided to change the mascot because of a complaint made to the school. A year later, “the board
voted to return to the Indians nickname and logo” (Powers, 2014). Between 1997-2011,
Menomonie high school kept the name and logo of the Indian mascot, but got rid of the actual
mascot, hoping to avoid any offense towards the tribe. In 2013, “The issue of American Indianrelated nicknames and logos used by Wisconsin school districts was revived,” along with “a law
allowing the state schools superintendent to ban Indian nicknames, mascots and logos based on
complaints by district resident” (Powers, 2014).
Though the term “Indians” is extremely broad because it includes all the various types of
tribes, it is still disrespectful. In fact, I would consider it even worse because it refers to one

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whole group of people. As stated in the book entitled Understanding Human Differences, it is
stated that “The only consensus among all of the indigenous people is their preference to be
identified by their tribal affiliation such as Hopi, Apache, Sioux, Mohican, Kwakiutl, or Inuit”
(Koppelman). This statement confirms that the indigenous people would like to be recognized as
their specific group, not such a general term as “Indian” that includes everyone. To help
understand this concept, it may be easier to think in terms of Caucasian people. There are so
many different types of backgrounds of white people (as there is in every race) that it does not
define who they are. They could be German, Norwegian, Italian, Danish, and so on. All of these
groups of people have completely differing roots, beliefs, and customs. It would be rude to
assume that just because they share the same skin color, they would all be the same.
Another reason that the mascot name is derogatory is the fact that it is not even the proper name
to call the group of people. The name “Indian” was given to the group of natives when
Christopher Columbus arrived in America. Columbus believed that he had landed in India,
therefore wrongly naming the group after the country he thought he was in. As stated in an article
regarding the terminology used for the group of indigenous people, “Use of Indian struck some
as out of touch, or worse—a mark of ignorance or bigotry” (Brunner).
I believe that the school made the right choice in changing their mascot. When asked
about the reasoning behind the name change, the superintendent of the high school stated,
“Rather than wait for a complaint to come, which we felt was imminent, we felt it was wise to
prepare for this over the summer and to make the announcement this fall,” (Joyce, 2011). Though
I agree with the decision to change to a new mascot, I do not agree with the reasoning behind it. I
believe that the school should have altered the mascot out of respect for the American Indians,
not out of protection for the school. The superintendent of the school, Stratton, stated that

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“changing the mascot from Indians to Mustangs was in the best interest of the school” (Joyce,
2011). However, this issue is much bigger than this one school. In fact, it is much bigger than
any school mascot naming. The truth is, this is an issue about race, and it is more than meets the
eye.
Menomonie High School thought they were showing respect to the Menomonee tribe by
naming their mascot the “Indians”. They tried to back this idea with adding the words “DignityStength-Honor-Pride” into the logo of their mascot. The catch was, the logo was completely
stereotypical. The picture was of dark skinned man, with an overbearing headdress made out of
feathers on, along with war paint under his eyes. This logo ties into the idea of stereotyping all
American Indians. Generally, most people would imagine an image “of the Plains Indians
wearing moccasins and headdresses” (Koppelman). Clearly, this is not how American Indians
live in today’s society, yet we are still portraying them as they were in the nineteenth century.
Some people (and schools) argue that “Indian mascots honor a proud, fighting spirit; meanwhile
we criticize or ignore Indians who proudly fight to eliminate the use of Indian mascots”
(Koppelman)
If, hypothetically, a sports team were to name themselves after a religious group of any
sort, I believe that people with that religious affiliation would be offended. In some way it is
dehumanizing the group, portraying them more as an object than a group of people. In
comparison, many mascots are named after animals. Schools surrounding the Menomonie area
have mascots such as the Eau Claire North Huskies, New Richmond Tigers, and Chippewa Falls
Cardinals. Comparing all of these mascots to Menomonie’s previous mascot, it almost seems as
though the mascot is animalistic. The same idea is applied to religious groups. It would be
offensive to the people because they are being seen as animalistic, lacking of traits that make

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them human. There is no greater insult to a group of people than stripping them of their human
identity and portraying them as animals, depicting them as the weaker group. Though it may be
hard, people need to take a walk in the shoes of the American Indians. They were the indigenous
people of America, the first ones here. Then all of a sudden, their land was taken over and they
were immediately looked down upon as ‘savages’. Then for sport, we name our teams after
them, and it sticks for a long time. Now that American Indians are speaking up, some
people/schools claim that we should not change tradition. The catch here is that they are
forgetting that the settlers tried to (and succeeded in some cases) strip the American Indians of
their own tradition and culture. The tradition of a sports team’s name is far less important than
the tradition of a way of life. It only seems right that schools respect their request to change sport
names.
I believe that American Indians have been the primary source for mascot names for
various reasons. One theory that I have would be an optimistic approach; the idea that the land
belonged to the American Indians first, therefore the mascot that represents the school on said
land should be representative of the original inhabitants. This theory would give credit to the
American Indians, honoring them by naming the school icon after them. Another idea that I have
in regards to mascot names primarily being named after American Indians would be the thought
that mascots are looked at as a joke. Mascots could be portrayed as an American Indian tribe as a
form of ‘teasing’ them. They have been belittled since the arrival of the Europeans, and this
could be a continuation of that concept. Mascots are often made to look like cartoons, with
exaggerated features. For the case of American Indians, stereotypical ideals are in place, such as
war paint, long braids, and feathers in their hair or headdresses. This could be seen as demeaning
to the American Indians.

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If all American Indians do not support the anti-mascot movement, it would be a different
situation. The only reason that most schools are changing their mascots is because they have
been receiving complaints about the name/logo/mascot. Without these complaints, schools would
see no harm in continuing the tradition of the mascot. In that aspect, things would be different,
considering there would most likely be no arguments in the first place. However, that does not
lessen the legitimacy of the offensiveness in the derogatory naming of mascots after the
indigenous group of people. This concept does not only apply to American Indians. It would be
just as racist to have a mascot of African Americans, Chinese, Hispanics, and any other ethnicity.
The reason that this is such a big deal is the fact that those hypothetical (and actual) mascots are
stereotypical and being turned into an object rather than representing a group of people. It was
stated that “The more the oppressors control the oppressed, the more they change them into
apparently inanimate objects” (Koppelman). The issue at hand is regarding race equality for all,
which means that we all should be knowledgeable and respectful to cultures besides our own.

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Bibliography
Brunner, Borgana. "American Indian versus Native American." Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web.
12 Oct. 2015.
"History." Menomonie. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Joyce, Mike. "Menomonie High School Selects New Mascot." - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI
NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports. N.p., 20 Sept. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Koppelman, Kent L., and R. Lee. Goodhart. "5." Understanding Human Differences:
Multicultural Education for a Diverse America. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2005.
87-97. Print.
Peterson, Megan. "Menomonie School District Announces New Mascot." WEAU RSS. N.p., 20
Sept. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Powers, Pamela. "Mustangs Is Choice for New Nickname, Ending Long Battle over Indians
Moniker." Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. N.p., 01 Dec. 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.

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