Rogers State University professor Hugh Foley is considered one of the foremost experts on the mascot controversy. As News on Six reporter Steve Berg tells us, he says it's in the eye of the beholder, or in his case, the lens of a video camera.
Blond haired, blue-eyed Hugh Foley never gave the mascot issue a second thought. That is, until he married a Native American woman.â€ And once I started to be around more Indian people and find out more about this issue, that's when I became aware that it was an issue."
But he still wasn't completely convinced until his first research trip. "And then this guy comes runnin' out. And you can't say this is a positive representation of Indian people." Since then, he has given it a second thought, and a third, and then some.
As you might expect from a professor, he's done his homework visiting dozens of schools. But he says you really don't have to go any farther than the average dictionary. "But look up redskin and it says offensive term for American Indian and people say, â€˜oh it's not really like thatâ€™, we don't really mean that." He says some may genuinely think they're honoring Indian traditions and histories with these shows, but Foley says they're not. "It depicts all American Indians as warlike, when they weren't, it depicts all American Indians as wearing war bonnets when they didn't, it misappropriates religious and cultural symbols which may have no religious significance to the mainstream, but have a lot of significance to American Indians."
Foley says it's a tricky issue because the names run the gamut from the more blatantly offensive, like savages, to the relatively innocuous, like Indians. And Foley discovered there's a whole range of opinions too. "Some Indians really care, some American Indians don't care at all, some non-Indians really care, and some non-Indians don't care at all." But he says if a group you're portraying says it's offended; you might want to defer to the judgment of the group.
Foley says he thinks widespread change will only come if Indians are more united on the subject.