Sherman Alexie

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Native American Mascots and Sports

In his novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, author Sherman Alexie introduces his readers to the issue of Indians used as mascots in sports. It is an issue that has plagued sports for decades and Alexie brings up the subject throughout his book and in interviews. He brings the topic to light to open the reader’s eyes to the idea that Native Americans are still thought as historical but not culturally relevant to society. Thousands of sports teams across the country have nicknames that either allude to or directly use the Native American culture. These nicknames are used as early as T-Ball and cover almost every sport in the United States. This issue has been in the news a lot recently and since I am an avid fan of the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Blackhawks, it is one I follow very closely. Alexie brings this idea up several times throughout his novel. In the novel Junior attends Reardan, a mostly white school with the nickname of “Warriors.” The logo for the team is a large red head with a feather sticking out of the back of its head. Since he is the only Native American at the school he points out he was “the only other Indian in town. (56)” Alexie is a huge opponent of using Native American imagery or names in sports because it affects them in ways other races can’t even imagine. The Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball use a logo very similar to Reardan’s depiction of an Indian in war paint and call it “Chief Wahoo.” In an interview with Bill Moyers, Alexie compares that image to a picture of “Sambo” from the Disney cartoon in the 1930’s. Because of the blatant racism in the cartoon, Disney has since locked it deep within its vault and now it can only be found on YouTube. Alexie argues that names like these have a terrible affect on young Indians because it brings to light all the untrue stereotypes the public used to believe about Indians and their culture. The use of Native American related...