Running Strong for American Indian Youth categorically rejects and calls for an end to the use of American Indian images and team names.
A core component of our mission consists of creating opportunities, hope and self-esteem among American Indian youth. We feel such names and mascots run counter to this essential element of our work.
We recognize that not every American Indian mascot was created with an intent to stereotype or convey disrespect. But every American Indian mascot in use today does exactly that. It is time for all institutions that profess to speak for the ideals of sport -- ideals such as honor, integrity, commitment, the very ideals exemplified by our National Spokesperson, Olympic Champion Billy Mills – to move on.
Mascots, symbols and team names are not accurate representations of American Indians today, or ever. Even those that purport to be positive are romantic stereotypes that give a distorted view of the past. These false portrayals prevent non-Natives from understanding the true historical and cultural experiences of American Indians. Sadly, they also encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary American Indian people.
Studies have found again and again that mascots and the stereotypes which they perpetuate are detrimental to Native youth. Mascots reinforce the notions that American Indians are disregarded, misunderstood and seen as extinct, historical objects. As a result, today’s Native youth suffer from low self-esteem and identity issues. Many youth do not feel comfortable identifying as American Indian because they fear teasing or bullying by their non-Native peers.
The future of the American Indian population is at stake. One-third of American Indian youth are living in poverty, school dropout rates for Indian youth are the highest of any racial group and suicide for Indian youth is two and a half times that of the national rate. The fact that the use of mascots contributes to this dire state of American Indian youth warrants change.