Monday, August 5, 2013

Thoughts about the upcoming Lycoming College Logo and Mascot announcement

By John Green
Williamsport, PA - When I went to Lycoming College from 1973-1977, the Warriors had what I thought was the perfect logo for a football team. The indian logo represented in my opinion the fight and persistence of a proud culture. I am one of those who thought that the indian imagery of a sports team actual honored the native indian.

But many of the native indians say that we, the immigrants of this great country, do not understand the feelings they have about borrowing their culture. This is evident now in pro football as the Washington Redskins are in the midst of the indian controversy. In the article entitled "Native Americans speak on sports imagery," gives highlights of discussion in Washington, DC at the National Museum of the American Indian. They held a day-long symposium on the use of Native American imagery in sports. Most of the panelists were American Indians, as were many of the audience members who spoke during discussion segments.

One of the day's recurring themes was a strong rejection of the notion that American Indian mascots and team names somehow "honor" Native Americans. Here's a sampling of thoughts that were offered on that idea:

From E. Newton Jackson, professor of sports management at the University of North Florida and a member of the Cherokee Tribes of South Carolina: "How does one person tell another that they honor them best? How do we do that when I'm telling you that what you're saying and doing does not honor me?"

From Lois Risling, land specialist for the Hoopa Valley Tribes, who attended Stanford University in the early 1970s, when the school's teams were known as the Indians and were cheered on to "scalp the [Cal] bear": "We were told it was an honor to have an Indian mascot chosen as the symbol as a great university. When 55 of us presented a petition to have the name and symbol changed, we were told we were all taking it too personal and should just get over it. When we said Prince Lightfoot [the school's live mascot at the time] was wearing clothing that was wrong, and that his dance was wrong, we were told, 'Stanford Indians dress like this, and anyone who goes to Stanford is a Stanford Indian, so that makes it OK.'"

From John Orendorff, a U.S. Army colonel and Native American: "I often feel that the underlying point of these 'honors' is that my Indian heritage is owned by others. The message I'm constantly getting is: 'We own you. We will define how we honor you. Don't tell us whether you like it or not, because we own you. When we hunt down Osama bin Laden, we can refer to him as Geronimo -- which happens to be my son's name -- because we own you. You don't control how you're perceived. We control that. Because we own you.'"

From Robert Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians: "I'm a sports junkie, but I don't think the [team] owners understand that they're not honoring us. Honors like that we don't need. Please, take it back."

• From an audience member who identified himself as Native American: "If [team owner] Dan Snyder truly thinks the word 'Redskins' is honorific, I challenge him to attend the next meeting of the National Congress of American Indians and try using that word to people's faces."

The following falls into my point of view from the symposium:

As dozens of readers have expressed to me via email, many sports fans genuinely admire what they perceive to be Indians' "fighting spirit" or "battlefield bravery" or "heart of a warrior." But the symposium panelists weren't having any of that either.

"It's just like the way Indians have always been depicted in the movies -- stupid and violent, although oddly noble in their savagery," said Kevin Gover, the museum's director and a Pawnee Indian. "Why is it that Native peoples aren't chosen to represent qualities like intelligence, piety, generosity, and love of family?"

N. Bruce Duthu, chair of the Native American Studies program at Dartmouth College and a member of the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, explained that limiting American Indian depictions to warlike caricatures has had ramifications that go beyond cultural stereotypes. "Indian savagery has long been used as an excuse to take away Indian property," he said. "Actual court cases have stated that Indians couldn't retain certain lands because they were too uncivilized, too savage, to be entrusted with those lands." In other words, the whole "battlefield warrior" caricature does more harm than good.

So, at Lycoming almost ten years ago, the Warrior Indian logo left us for good. The Warriors name (stayed for now), but a new logo, the blank "L" was introduced instead of the brave, battle tested indian. But the trouble using the L as the sports image was that opponents suggested that it meant "losers" or "lousy." You can put other words to the L that will offend you.

So coming August 13th, I am told that Lycoming College will be unveiling a new sports Logo. Something that will build pride, show fight, look good on sports apparel we hope. Will the college still keep the "Warriors" as our team battle cry? Will it be a logo that does not offend someone in this political correct society? Will it be bland and have no excitement as the L with not much thought proved to be? We have about a week to see how it all pans out, but for me, I loved that old indian logo.

Would love to hear your thoughts!