Many sports teams using names and mascots invoking Native Americans do so over the longstanding and strenuous objections of people who say it is racist. Some teams, after years of stubborn refusal, have recently relented, like the Washington Football Team of the N.F.L., which abandoned its nickname earlier this month.
Then there are the Spokane Indians.
The minor league team in Washington State has been collaborating with the Spokane Tribe of Indians in what it hopes is a respectful manner of honoring the local Indigenous population.
Can that be done? Some say it is not possible, but the Spokane Indians may be as close to an understanding as any team has come.
Stephanie Fryberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, is a member of the Tulalip Nation in Eastern Washington State, a group that is part of the Coastal Salish people. Her research has shown that an overwhelming majority of Native Americans who are engaged in cultural practices are offended by Native sports teams names and logos.
She said that as a scientist, she would need more data to fully evaluate the Spokane situation — including surveys of people’s feelings and opinions — but on the surface, she said there appears to be a respectful approach by the team.
“This seems to be a different story,” Fryberg said, contrasting the Spokane situation with many other more contentious team names and mascots. “I would still like to change the name, but I think there is a place for specific Native names. The goal isn’t to get rid of them completely, but to use them appropriately. You can’t use a mascot appropriately.”
Read the full article at the New York Times.