For many fans, the chop and its accompanying chant — a pantomimed tomahawk motion and made-up war cry, also employed by fans of the Atlanta Braves, the Florida State Seminoles and England’s Exeter Chiefs rugby team — are a way to show solidarity with their team and to intimidate the opposition. But to many Native Americans — locally and afar — and others, the act is a disrespectful gesture that perpetuates negative stereotypes of the nation’s first people and embarrasses a city that fancies itself a hub of culture and innovation in the Midwest.
A survey of Native Americans — conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and the University of California, Berkeley, and set to publish next month — found that around half of respondents were bothered or offended when sports fans did the tomahawk chop or wore Indian headdresses. Opposition was even greater among those who frequently engaged in Native traditions, with 65 percent saying the chop bothered them, according to the report, which will appear in the academic journal “Social Psychological and Personality Science.”
Other research suggests that Native mascots and imagery in sports damage the self-esteem and ambitions of American Indian youth.
“There’s no way that the use of Natives as mascots is honoring,” said Stephanie Fryberg, a University of Michigan professor who is Tulalip and worked on the survey. “That’s an illusion.”
Read the full article at the New York Times.