Native American Group Offended By Union High's Use Of 'Redskins'
TULSA, Oklahoma - The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is calling on Union Public Schools to change its mascot.
The NFL's Washington Redskins is under pressure to change its mascot. President Barack Obama has even said he believes the name should be changed.
Twenty-eight high schools have changed their team name from "Redskins," according to the NCAI. The congress is meeting this week and says the Redskins nickname is racist and offensive.
That same mascot represents one of Oklahoma's most successful high schools. At every home game, Union High's football team enters the field through a teepee.
"It is offensive, very offensive," Muscogee (Creek) National Principal Chief George Tiger.
Union Schools sits within the boundaries of the Creek Nation.
George Tiger is part of the National Congress of American Indians, which recently issued a report calling for the end of what it calls racist Indian nicknames and mascots. At the top of the list is "Redskins."
"The concern is, when your tradition and your culture is being attacked by this controversial mascot issue, then it is important to us," Tiger said.
Chief Tiger and the NCAI say Native American nicknames and the images that go with it are an attack on a culture. They say you don't see team nicknames that are racial slurs for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, or the Jewish community.
"These kinds of things, if they were done in a school system, they would be called bullying," said NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata.
They also point to studies that show Indian-based names and mascots lowers the self-esteem of Native American children and perpetuates an inaccurate view of Native American culture.
The NCAI says most of these nicknames date to the '20s and '30s, when Native Americans were seen in a different light than today.
Union's nickname goes back to the late 1940s.
No one from the district was available to speak on camera, but a spokeswoman said in a statement that definitions should be placed in context.
"Union community members of all races tell us this is not an issue divided strictly on the lines of race. The debate appears to be between some people outside of this district who have a different opinion as to how people inside this school district should believe, feel, and identify themselves. It is those within the Union community that the district serves.
"Definitions need to be in context of time, place and usage. In this day and age, in the Union community, "Redskins" is not derogatory; rather it defines a diverse, yet close-knit community that exhibits great pride and spirit in its schools and programs as well as in its determination and traditions of success."
We left messages with each member of Union School's board education, but no one has commented.
In 2003, the board voted unanimously to keep the Redskins nickname.