Yesterday the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors gave first reading to the following resolution, brought forward by Tiospa Zina superintendent Dr. Roger Bordeaux, to encourage member schools not to use harmful, stereotypical Indian imagery or mascots:
WHEREAS after numerous empirical studies, personal anecdotes, and recommendations from national organizations and federal programs, it is evident that stereotypical Indian imagery and Indian mascots cause harm, and
WHEREAS one leading study conducted by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg (Stanford University, 2004) determined that stereotypical representations from Indian mascots and Indian imagery of the “leathered and feathered” Indian have a direct negative impact on the self-esteem of American Indian youth, as they restrict the number of ways in which American Indian youth see themselves, and
WHEREAS exposure to such pervasive stereotypical imagery resulted in lower self-esteem, a lower sense of community worth, and decreased views of students’ own potential, and
WHEREAS in 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) called for the “immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations”, and
WHEREAS two years later the American Sociological Association (ASA) also called for the elimination of American Indian names, mascots and logos, and in 2011, the American Counseling Association (ACA) passed a resolution calling upon their members to advocate for the elimination of all stereotypes associated with Indian mascots, and
WHEREAS in October 2015, the White House Initiative on American Indian/Alaska Native Education released a report with recommendations for schools to immediately retire Indian mascots and stereotypical Indian imagery, after findings which confirmed the harm of stereotypical Indian imagery, and
WHEREAS considering all of the aforementioned recommendations, it is very clear that Indian mascots, and any representation of stereotypical Indian imagery not only cause harm to American Indian youth, but moreover, such imagery is not suitable for educational settings which aim to foster healthy psychological development and/or student self-actualization.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the South Dakota High School Activities Association encourages its membership to consider not using any stereotypical Indian imagery and Indian mascots that cause harm.
Bob Mercer reports that Sisseton school board member Ron Evenson and Woonsocket superintendent Rod Weber spoke against the resolution. Both men come from schools that call their sports teams the Redmen. Bob Mercer reports that Evenson and Weber both challenged the SDHSAA board to produce evidence of harm from their Indian nicknames and mascots:
Evenson asked for proof of damage. So did Woonsocket Superintendent Rod Weber, who said his district’s school board voted many years ago to change the name from Redmen but quickly went back to it.
Weber said his current board has many questions. “Is there research out there? Have we done research as a (state) board?” he asked [Bob Mercer, “Association Urges Dropping of Teams’ Nicknames, Mascots That Portray Native American Stereotypes,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.01.14].
Um, Ron? Rod? Did you read the resolution? It cites the research you’re looking for. The APA 2005 resolution is chock full of citations. The ASA 2007 resolution also came with a big bibliography. So did the White House 2015 report. Satisfied?
Evenson also tried some judo, accusing the SDHSAA of not taking the issue seriously enough:
Evenson challenged the SDHSAA directors to set a tight standard with penalties such as prohibiting post-season play for schools in violation.
Otherwise, he said, the fight will be one school at a time.
“The argument should be right here. You folks should be deciding this,” Evenson told the directors. “If you’re not willing to go that route, then you should reject this resolution” [Mercer, 2016.01.14].
Clever: Evenson doesn’t want the SDHSAA recommending that his school not act like racists, so he dares the SDHSAA to make a firm rule penalizing schools for acting like racists. That’s a trick: The SDHSAA is staking a remarkably restrained route that is tough to oppose; Evenson is daring the board to propose a mandate that would line more opponents up behind Sisseton and Woonsocket.
SDSHAA didn’t bite; instead, they approved first reading of this resolution 8 to 1 (Sioux Valley athletic director Moe Ruesnik voted no). Second reading takes place at SDHSAA’s March 2 meeting in Pierre.