Timeline of US Indian Massacres
An atrocity called an “Indian massacre” is a specific incident wherein a group of people (military, mob or other) deliberately kill a significant number of relatively defenseless or innocent people—usually civilian noncombatants or to the summary execution of prisoners-of-war. Here is a timeline of significant massacres that occurred in the United States between 1539 and 1911.
|1539 || ||Napituca Massacre ||After defeating resisting Timucuan warriors, Hernando de Soto had 200 executed, in the first large-scale massacre by Europeans on what became American soil. |
|1540 ||October 18 ||Mabila Massacre ||The Choctaw retaliated against Hernando de Soto’s expedition, killing 200 soldiers, as well as many of their horses and pigs, for their having burned down Mabila compound and killed c. 2,500 warriors who had hidden in houses of a fake village. |
|1541–42 || ||Tiguex Massacres ||After the invading Spaniards seized the houses, food and clothing of the Tiguex, and raped their women, the Tiguex resisted. The Spanish attacked them, burning at the stake 50 people who had surrendered. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s men laid siege to the Moho Pueblo, and after a months-long siege, they killed 200 fleeing warriors. |
|1599 ||January 22–24 ||Acoma Massacre ||Juan de Oñate led a punitive expedition against the natives in a three-day battle at the Acoma Pueblo, killing approximately 800. King Philip III later punished Oñate for his excesses. |
|1601 || ||Sandia Mountains ||Spanish troops destroyed 3 Indian villages in the Sandia Mountains, New Mexico. According to Spanish sources, 900 Tompiro Indians were killed. |
|1622 ||March 22 ||Jamestown Massacre ||Powhatan (Pamunkey) killed 347 English men, women and children throughout the Virginia colony, almost one-third of the English population of the Jamestown colony, in an effort to push the English out of Virginia. |
|1623 ||May 12 ||Pamunkey Peace Talks ||The English poisoned the wine at a “peace conference” with Powhatan leaders, killing about 200; they physically attacked and killed another 50. |
|1637 ||April 23 ||Wethersfield Attack ||During the Pequot War, Wongunk chief Sequin attacked the Puritan town Wethersfield, Connecticut with Pequot help. About 30 settlers were killed, including women and children. |
|1643 ||February 25 ||Pavonia Massacre || |
In 1643 the Mohawk attacked a band of Wappinger and Tappan, who fled to New Amsterdam seeking
the protection of New Netherland governor, William Kieft. Kieft dispersed them to Pavonia and Corlears Hook.
They were later attacked, 129 being killed. This prompted the beginning of Kieft’s War, driven by mercenary John Underhill.
|1643 ||August ||Hutchinson Massacre ||As part of Kieft’s War in New Netherland, near the Split Rock (now northeastern Bronx in New York City), local Lenape (or Siwanoy) killed Anne Hutchinson, six of her children, a son-in-law, and as many as seven others (servants). Susanna, one of Hutchinson’s daughters, was taken captive and lived with the natives for several years. |
|1644 ||March ||Pound Ridge Massacre ||As part of Kieft’s War in New Netherland, at present day Pound Ridge, New York, John Underhill, hired by the Dutch, attacked and burned a sleeping village of Lenape, killing about 500 Indians. |
|1655 ||September 11–15 ||Peach Tree War ||In retaliation for Director-General of New Netherland Peter Stuyvesant’s attacks to their trading partners and allies at New Sweden, united bands of natives attacked Pavonia, Staten Island, Colen Donck and other areas of New Netherland. |
|1675 ||July ||Swansea Massacre ||Wampanoag warriors attack the town of Swansea, Massachusetts, killing 7 settlers. This attack marked the beginning of King Philip’s War. |
|1675 ||September 18 ||Bloody Brook Massacre ||During King Philip’s War, Indian warriors ambushed and killed 60 soldiers of Deerfield, Massachusetts. |
|1675 ||December 19 ||Great Swamp Massacre ||Colonial militia attacked a Narragansett fort near South Kingstown, Rhode Island. At least 40 warriors were killed and 300 women, children and elder men burnt in the village. |
|Year ||Date ||Name ||Description || |
|1832 ||May 20 ||Indian Creek Massacre ||A party of Potawatomi, with a few Sauk allies, killed fifteen men, women and children and kidnapped two young women, who were later ransomed. || |
|1832 ||May 24 ||St. Vrain massacre ||4 settlers were killed by Ho-Chunk while delivering dispatches during the Black Hawk War near present-day Pearl City, Illinois || |
|1832 ||June 14 ||Spafford Farm massacre ||During Black Hawk War, five men were attacked by a Kickapoo war party near present-day South Wayne, Wisconsin. Four whites and one Indian died. || |
|1832 ||August 1 ||Battle of Bad Axe ||Soldiers under General Henry Atkinson and armed volunteers killed around 150 Indian men, women and children near present-day Victory, Wisconsin. || |
|1833 ||Exact date unknown ||Cutthroat Gap Massacre ||The Osage tribe attacked a Kiowa camp west of the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma, killing 150 Kiowa Indians. || |
|1835 ||December 28 ||Dade Massacre ||During the Second Seminole War, Seminole killed almost all of a command of 110 American soldiers in Central Florida. All but two of the soldiers were killed; and one survivor died a few months later from his wounds. || |
|1836 ||May 19 ||Fort Parker Massacre ||Comanche killed seven European Americans in Limestone County, Texas. The five captured included Cynthia Ann Parker. || |
|1837 ||April 22 ||Johnson Massacre ||At least 20 Apaches were killed near Santa Rita del Cobre, New Mexico while trading with a group of American settlers led by John Johnson. The Anglos blasted the Apaches with a canon loaded with musket balls, nails and pieces of glass and finished off the wounded. || |
|1838 ||October 5 ||Killough Massacre ||Indians massacred eighteen members and relatives of the Killough family in Texas. || |
|1838 or 1839 ||Exact date unknown ||Webster Massacre ||The Comanche killed a party of settlers attempting to ford the Bushy Creek near present-day Leander, Texas. All of the Anglo men were killed and Mrs. Webster and her two children were captured. || |
|1840 ||March 19 ||Council House Massacre ||The 12 leaders of a Comanche delegation (65 people including 35 women and children) were shot in San Antonio, Texas, while trying to escape the local jail. 23 others including 5 women and children were killed in or around the city. || |
|1840 ||August 7 ||Indian Key Massacre ||During the Seminole Wars, Spanish-speaking Indians attacked and destroyed an Indian Key settlement, killing 13 inhabitants, including noted horticulturist Dr. Henry Perrine. || |
|1840 ||October 24 ||Colorado River ||Volunteer Rangers under Colonel Moore massacred 140 Comanches (men, women and children) in their village on the Colorado and captured 35 others (mostly small children). || |
|1840 ||Exact date unknown ||Clear Lake Massacre ||A posse led by Mexican Salvador Vallejo massacred 150 Pomo and Wappo Indians on Clear Lake, California. || |
|1846 ||March ||Sacramento River ||Captain Frémont’s men attacked a peaceful band of Indians (probably Yanas) on the Sacramento River in California, killing between 120 and 200 Indians. || |
|1846 ||December ||Pauma massacre ||11 Californios were killed by Indians at Escondido, California, leading to the Temecula massacre. || |
|1846 ||December ||Temecula massacre ||33 to 40 Indians killed in revenge for the Pauma Massacre at Escondido, California. || |
|1847 ||February 3–4 ||Storming of Pueblo de Taos ||In response to a New Mexican-instigated uprising in Taos, American troops attacked the heavily fortified Pueblo of Taos with artillery, killing nearly 150, some being Indians. Between 25 and 30 prisoners were shot by firing squads. || |
|1847 ||November 29 ||Whitman massacre ||Cayuse and Umatilla warriors killed the missionaries Dr. Marcus Whitman, Mrs. Narcissa Whitman and 12 others at Walla Walla, Washington, triggering the Cayuse War. || |
|1848 ||April ||Brazos River ||A hunting party of 26 friendly Wichita and Caddo Indians was massacred by Texas Rangers under Captain Samuel Highsmithe, in a valley south of Brazos River. 25 men and boys were killed, and only one child managed to escape. || |
|1850 ||May 15 ||Bloody Island Massacre ||Nathaniel Lyon and his U. S. Army detachment of cavalry killed 60–100 Pomo people on Bo-no-po-ti island near Clear Lake, (Lake Co., California); they believed the Pomo had killed two Clear Lake settlers who had been abusing and murdering Pomo people. (The Island Pomo had no connections to the enslaved Pomo). This incident led to a general outbreak of settler attacks against and mass killing of native people all over Northern California. Site is California Registered Historical Landmark #427 || |
|1851 ||March ||Oatman Massacre ||Royce Oatman’s emigrant party of 7 was killed by Mohave or Yavapai Indians. The survivors, Olive and Mary Ann Oatman were enslaved. Olive escaped five years later and spoke extensively about the experience. || |
|1851 || ||Old Shasta Town ||Miners killed 300 Wintu Indians near Old Shasta, California and burned down their tribal council meeting house. || |
|1852 || ||Hynes Bay Massacre ||Texas militiamen attacked a village of 50 Karankawas, killing 45 of them. || |
|1852 ||April 23 ||Bridge Gulch Massacre ||70 American men led by Trinity County sheriff William H. Dixon killed more than 150 Wintu people in the Hayfork Valley of California, in retaliation for the killing of Col. John Anderson. || |
|1852 ||November ||Wright Massacre ||White settlers led by a notorious Indian hunter named Ben Wright massacred 41 Modocs during a “peace parley”. || |
|1853 || ||Howonquet Massacre ||Californian settlers attacked and burned the Tolowa village of Howonquet, massacring 70 people. || |
|1853 || ||Yontoket Massacre ||A posse of settlers attacked and burned a Tolowa rancheria at Yontocket, California, killing 450 Tolowa during a prayer ceremony. || |
|1853 || ||Achulet Massacre ||White settlers launched an attack on a Tolowa village near Lake Earl in California, killing between 65 and 150 Indians at dawn. || |
|1853 ||Before December 31 ||“Ox” incident ||U.S. forces attacked and killed an unreported number of Indians in the Four Creeks area (Tulare County, California) in what was referred to by officers as “our little difficulty” and “the chastisement they have received”. || |
|1854 ||January 28 ||Nasomah Massacre ||40 white settlers attacked the sleeping village of the Nasomah Indians at the mouth of the Coquille River in Oregon, killing 15 men and 1 woman. || |
|1854 ||February 15 ||Chetco River Massacre ||Nine white settlers attacked a friendly Indian village on the Chetco River in Oregon, massacring 26 men and a few women. Most of the Indians were shot while trying to escape. Two Chetco who tried to resist with bows and arrows were burned alive in their houses. Shortly before the attack, the Chetco had been induced to give away their weapons as “friendly relations were firmly established”. || |
|1854 ||August 19 ||Grattan Massacre ||After a detachment of 30 U.S. soldiers in the Nebraska Territory opened fire on an encampment of 4,000 Brulé Sioux, killing Chief Conquering Bear, warriors attacked and killed all the soldiers and their civilian interpreter. || |
|1854 ||August 20 ||Ward Massacre ||Shoshone killed 18 of the 20 members of the Alexander Ward party, attacking them on the Oregon Trail in western Idaho. This event led the U.S. eventually to abandon Fort Boise and Fort Hall, in favor of the use of military escorts for emigrant wagon trains. || |
|1855 ||January 22 ||Klamath River massacres ||In retaliation for the murder of six settlers and the theft of some cattle, whites commenced a “war of extermination against the Indians” in Humboldt County, California. || |
|1855 ||September 2 ||Harney Massacre ||US troops under Brigadier General William S. Harney killed 86 Sioux, men, women and children at Blue Water Creek, in present-day Nebraska. About 70 women and children were taken prisoner. || |
|1855 ||October 8 ||Lupton Massacre ||A group of settlers and miners launched a night attack on an Indian village near Upper Table Rock, Oregon, killing 23 Indians (mostly elderly men, women and children). || |
|1855 ||December 23 ||Little Butte Creek ||Oregon volunteers launched a dawn attack on a Tututni and Takelma camp on the Rogue River. Between 19 to 26 Indians were killed. || |
|1856 ||June ||Grande Ronde River Valley Massacre ||Washington Territorial Volunteers under Colonel Benjamin Shaw attacked a peaceful Cayuse and Walla Walla Indians on the Grande Ronde River in Oregon. 60 Indians, mostly women, old men and children were killed. || |
|1856 ||March ||Shingletown ||In reprisal for Indian stock theft, white settlers massacred at least 20 Yana men, women and children near Shingletown, California. || |
|1857 ||Mar 8–12 ||Spirit Lake Massacre ||Thirty-five to 40 settlers were killed and 4 taken captive by Santee Sioux in the last Indian attack on settlers in Iowa. || |
|1858-1859 || ||Round Valley Massacres ||White settlers killed 150 Yuki Indians in Round Valley, California. Massacres continued through the spring and summer of 1859. In April 1859, in revenge for the killing of 3 cows and 1 stallion belonging to a white man, California militiamen massacred 240 Indians on the Eel River. On 1 May, Major Johnson reported that six hundred Yukis had been massacred by white settlers “in the last year”. || |
|1859 ||September ||Pit River ||White settlers massacred 70 Achomawi Indians (10 men and 60 women and children) in their village on Pit River in California. || |
|1859 || ||Chico Creek ||White settlers attacked a Maidu camp near Chico Creek in California, killing indiscriminately 40 Indians. || |
|1860 ||Exact date unknown ||Massacre at Bloody Rock ||A group of 65 Yuki Indians were surrounded and massacred by white settlers at Bloody Rock, in Mendocino County, California. || |
|1860 ||February 26 ||Indian Island Massacre ||In three nearly simultaneous assaults on the Wiyot, at Indian Island, Eureka, Rio Dell, and near Hydesville, California white settlers killed between 200 and 250 Wiyot in Humboldt County, California. Victims were mostly women, children and elders, as reported by Bret Harte at Arcata newspaper. Other villages massacred within two days. The main site is National Register of Historic Places in the United States #66000208. || |
|1860 ||December 18 ||Pease River Massacre ||Texas Rangers under Captain Sul Ross attacked a Comanche village in Foard County, Texas, killing indiscriminately a considerable number of Indians. || |
|1860 ||September 8 ||Otter Massacre ||Near Sinker Creek Idaho, 11 persons of the last wagon train of the year were killed by Indians and several others were subsequently killed. Some that escaped the initial massacre starved to death || |
|1861 || ||Horse Canyon Massacre ||White settlers and Indian allies attacked a Wailaki village in Horse Canyon (Round Valley, California), killing up to 240 Wailakis. || |
|1861 || ||Cookes Canyon Massacres ||Apaches massacred hundreds of Americans and Mexicans in and around Cookes Canyon, New Mexico over the course of several months. || |
|1861 ||Sep 2 ||Gallinas Massacre ||Four Confederate soldiers were killed by Chiricahua Apache warriors. || |
|1862 || ||Upper Station Massacre ||California settlers killed at least 20 Wailakis in Round Valley, California. || |
|1862 || ||Big Antelope Creek Massacre ||California settlers led by notorious Indian hunter Hi Good launched a dawn attack on a Yana village, massacring about 25 Indians. || |
|1862 ||August–September ||Dakota War of 1862 ||As part of the U.S.-Dakota War, the Sioux killed as many as 800 white settlers and soldiers throughout Minnesota. Some 40,000 white settlers fled their homes on the frontier. || |
|1862 ||October 24 ||Tonkawa Massacre ||During the U.S. Civil War, a detachment of irregular Union Indians, mainly Kickapoo, Lenape and Shawnee, accompanied by Caddo allies, attempted to destroy the Tonkawa tribe in Indian Territory. They killed 240 of 390 Tonkawa, leaving only 150 survivors. || |
|1863 ||January 29 ||Bear River Massacre ||Col. Patrick Connor led a United States Army regiment killing 280 Shoshone men, women and children near Preston, Idaho. || |
|1863 ||April 19 ||Keyesville Massacre ||American militia and members of the California cavalry killed 35 Tehachapi men in Kern County, California. || |
|1863-1865 || ||Mowry massacres ||16 settlers were killed in a series of Indian raids at Mowry, Arizona Territory || |
|1864 || ||Cottonwood ||20 Yanas of both sexes were killed by white settlers in the town of Cottonwood, California. || |
|1864 || ||Massacre at Bloody Tanks ||A group of white settlers led by King S. Woolsey killed 19 Apaches at a “peace parley”. || |
|1864 || ||Oak Run Massacre ||California settlers massacred 300 Yana Indians who had gathered near the head of Oak Run, California for a spiritual ceremony. || |
|1864 || ||Skull Valley Massacre ||A group of Yavapai families was lured into a trap and massacred by soldiers under Lt. Monteith in a valley west of Prescott, Arizona (Arizona). The place was named Skull Valley after the heads of the dead Indians left unburied. || |
|1864 ||November 29 ||Sand Creek Massacre ||Members of the Colorado Militia attacked a peaceful village of Cheyenne, killing at least 160 men, women and children at Sand Creek in Kiowa County. || |
|1865 ||March 14 ||Mud Lake Massacre ||US troops under Captain Wells attacked a Paiute camp near Winnemucca Lake, killing 32 Indians. One soldier was slightly wounded during the attack. || |
|1865 || ||Owens Lake Massacre ||White vigilantes attacked a Paiute camp on Owens Lake in California, killing about 40 men, women and children. || |
|1865 || ||Three Knolls Massacre ||White settlers massacred a Yana community at Three Knolls on the Mill Creek, California. || |
|1865 ||September ||Bloody Point Massacre ||A wagon train of 65 settlers was massacred by Modoc Indians near Lake Tule in Oregon. One man survived and alerted the Oregon militia who buried the bodies. || |
|1866 ||April 21 ||Circleville Massacre ||Mormon militiamen killed 16 Paiute men and women at Circleville, Utah. 6 men were shot, allegedly while trying to escape. The others (3 men and 7 women) had their throats cut. 4 small children were spared. || |
|1867 || ||Aquarius Mountains ||Yavapai County Rangers killed 23 Indians (men, women and children) in the southern Aquarius Mountains, Arizona. || |
|1867 ||July 2 ||Kidder Massacre ||Cheyenne and Sioux ambushed and killed a 2nd US Cavalry detachment of eleven men and their Indian guide near Beaver Creek in Sherman County, Kansas. General Custer was an after-the-fact witness at the scene. || |
|1868 || ||Campo Seco ||A posse of white settlers massacred 33 Yahis in a cave north of Mill Creek, California. || |
|1868 ||November 27 ||Washita Massacre |
(Battle of Washita River)
|During the American Indian Wars, Lt. Col. G.A.Custer’s 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked a village of sleeping Cheyenne led by Black Kettle. Custer reported 103 – later revised to 140 – warriors, “some” women and “few” children killed, and 53 women and children taken hostage. Other casualty estimates by cavalry members, scouts and Indians vary widely, with the number of men killed ranging as low as 11 and the numbers of women and children ranging as high as 75. Before returning to their base, the cavalry killed several hundred Indian ponies and burned the village. || |
|1870 ||January 23 ||Marias Massacre ||US troops killed 173 Piegan, mainly women, children and the elderly after being led to the wrong camp by a soldier who wanted to protect his Indian wife’s family. || |
|1871 || ||Kingsley Cave Massacre ||4 settlers killed 30 Yahi Indians in Tehama County, California about two miles from Wild Horse Corral in the Ishi Wilderness. It is estimated that this massacre left only 15 members of the Yahi tribe alive || |
|1871 ||April 30 ||Camp Grant Massacre ||Led by the ex-Mayor of Tucson, William Oury, eight Americans, 48 Mexicans and more than 100 allied Pima attacked Apache men, women and children at Camp Grant, Arizona Territory killing 144, with 1 survivor at scene and 29 children sold to slavery. All but eight of the dead were Apache women or children. || |
|1871 ||November 5 ||Wickenburg massacre ||Indians attacked an Arizona stagecoach, killing the driver and his five passengers, leaving two wounded survivors. || |
|1872 ||Between August and October ||Jordan Massacre ||3 settlers were killed and 1 woman abducted by Indians at the Middle Fork of Walnut Creek, Kansas || |
|1872 ||December 28 ||Skeleton Cave Massacre ||U.S. troops and Indian scouts killed 76 Yavapai Indians men, women and children in a remote cave in Arizona’s Salt River Canyon. || |
|1873 ||June 1 ||Cypress Hills Massacre ||Following a dispute over stolen horses, American wolfers killed approximately 20 Nakoda in Saskatchewan. || |
|1875 ||April ||Sappa Creek Massacre ||Soldiers under Lt Austin Henly trapped a group of 27 Cheyenne, (19 men, 8 women and children) on the Sappa Creek, in Kansas and killed them all. || |
|1877 ||August 8 ||Big Hole Massacre ||US troops under Colonel John Gibbon attacked a Nez Perce village at Big Hole, in Montana Territory. They killed 89 men, women and children before being repulsed by the Indians. || |
|1879 ||January 9–21 ||Fort Robinson Massacre ||Northern Cheyenne under Dull Knife attempted to escape from confinement in Fort Robinson, Nebraska; U.S. Army forces hunted them down, killing 77 of them. The remains of those killed were repatriated in 1994. || |
|1879 ||September 30 ||Meeker Massacre ||In the beginning of the Ute War, the Ute killed the US Indian Agent Nathan Meeker and 10 others. They also attacked a military unit, killing 13 and wounding 43. || |
|1880 ||April 28 ||Alma Massacre ||The Apache chief Victorio led warriors in an attack on settlers at Alma, New Mexico. On December 19, 1885, the Apache killed an officer and four enlisted men of the 8th Cavalry Regiment near Alma. || |
|1889 ||November 2 ||Kelvin Grade Massacre ||The Apache Kid (Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl) and his gang escaped police custody, killing two sheriffs and wounding one settler near present-day Globe, Arizona. || |
|1890 ||December 10 ||Buffalo Gap Massacre ||Several wagonloads of Sioux were killed by South Dakota Home Guard militiamen near French Creek, South Dakota, while visiting a white friend in Buffalo Gap. || |
|1890 ||December ||Stronghold ||South Dakota Home Guard militiamen ambushed and massacred 75 Sioux at the Stronghold, in the northern portion of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. || |
|1890 ||December 29 ||Wounded Knee Massacre ||Members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry attacked and killed between 130 and 250 Sioux men, women and children at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. || |
|1911 ||January 19 ||Last Massacre ||A group of Shoshone killed four ranchers in Washoe County, Nevada. On 26 February 1911, an American posse killed eight of the Shoshone suspects and captured four children from the band. |
History of the Fighting Sioux Mascot controversy
Since at least the early1970s, questions have been raised about the appropriateness of the University of North Dakota’s use of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname and related graphic symbols to promote its athletic teams. This report, prepared by an individual who has worked closely with UND’s presidents during most of this period, attempts to provide an historical and contextual perspective.
As a review of turn-of-the-century copies of UND’s yearbook, the “Dacotah” annual, reveals, Indian imagery was common in the University’s earliest days. Native Americans in full regalia even joined non-Indians in pageants and other events, often on the banks of the English Coulee. This is hardly surprising, since Indian names had been used by the white settlers to name cities, waterways, geographic features, businesses, and so forth (including, obviously, the word “Dakota” to refer to the state itself).
The use of symbols and graphic images also was common. For example, an Indian head symbol has been utilized for state highway markers since early in the century. Another Indian head emblem is the symbol of the State Highway Patrol, still painted on every squad car.
High school and college sports teams in North Dakota also adopted Indian-related team names. And although the number has declined, in part because of the sharp reduction in the number of schools in the state, there still are 15 schools using Indian-related team names, (13 primary and secondary schools, including five on reservations (1), and two colleges, the University of North Dakota (the Fighting Sioux) and Williston State College (the Tetons).
As UND Professor of Indian Studies Mary Jane Schneider points out in her book North Dakota’s Indian Heritage, many of those who claimed to be honoring Indians in this way were influenced by “white” ideas about Indian history and culture as portrayed in popular fiction, the media, and especially by Hollywood.
Still, she says, “Some idea of the magnitude of Indian contributions to North Dakota history and culture can be gained by trying to imagine North Dakota without any Indian influences: no names, no logos, no highway symbols, no trails, no forts, no pow wows, no Sitting Bull, no Sacajawea, no Joseph Rolette, no Dakota flint corn, no Great Northern Bean, and significantly fewer parks, museums, books, artists, doctors, lawyers, architects, and educators.
Without its Indian heritage, North Dakota would not be the same.”
According to Schneider, the development of the concept of “team sports” in Europe was influenced by the games explorers had seen Indians play in America, in which individuals acted as a unit and there was no individual winner. Athletic programs at UND date back to shortly after the institution’s founding in 1883. For many years, the teams were known as the “Flickertails,” perhaps an allusion to the University of Minnesota’s nickname, the “Golden Gophers.” Sometimes the teams were referred to as the “Nodaks.”
In 1930, after the adoption by the then North Dakota Agricultural College of the nickname “Bison” and a campaign led by the student newspaper, the University’s Athletic Board of Control adopted the name “Sioux.” During a decade when UND athletic teams dominated the North Central Conference, the new team name quickly became popular (“Fight On Sioux,” a song with a “tom tom” beat, is still in use today).
The “Nickel Trophy,” featuring an Indian image on one side and a bison on the other, since 1937 has been awarded to the winner of the UND-North Dakota State University football game (similarly, a “Sitting Bull” trophy goes to the victor of UND-University of South Dakota rivalry). The addition of the word “Fighting,” modeled after Notre Dame University’s “Fighting Irish,” occurred later.
Graphic symbols with Indian themes proliferated at UND in the 1950s and 1960s, extending even into the non-athletic realm (“Sammy Sioux,” a cartoon character who appeared on coffee cups and other items, is perhaps the quintessential example). A men’s pep club, the now defunct “Golden Feather” organization, promoted various kinds of “rah rah” activities centered, naturally enough, on Indian themes.
For many years female basketball cheerleaders wore fringed buckskin dresses and feather headdresses. At times during its 48-year history, the Varsity Bards, UND’s elite male chorus, began its concerts by yelling in a manner heard by some listeners as Indian “war whooping.” The practice
was ended a number of years ago.
Indian themes were commonly depicted in the giant ice sculptures created annually by UND’s fraternities and sororities as part of the now defunct “King Kold Karnival.” It was one of these sculptures, a vulgar and demeaning depiction of an Indian woman, that in 1972 precipitated a controversy that continues to this day.
Why had there been few protests until then? On the national level, tribes across the country, buttressed by favorable court decisions and the ideas of the Civil Rights movement, began asserting their rights of self-determination after decades of control by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. BIA reservation schools, for example, had long attempted to adapt Indian children to the majority culture, often at the expense of traditional Indian values.
New activist Indian organizations sprang up, such as the American Indian Movement (AIM) headed by Vernon Bellecourt, who had grown up at the nearby White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. As had the Jewish anti-defamation and Black civil rights movements before them, the activists and a growing number of more conservative Indian leaders began to conclude that stereotyped cultural images were a roadblock to future progress.
At UND there was an even simpler reason: Until the coming of the federal “Great Society” programs in the mid-1960s, very few Native American students had ever enrolled at UND. But new externally funded programs began to appear, such as “Teacher Corps,” which prepared Indian students for careers as educators.
These programs brought comparatively large numbers of Native Americans to the campus (today some 349 have officially identified themselves as Indians, many others have not). Not all of these new students approved of the use of Indian imagery to promote “school spirit,” especially in the highly stereotyped way of a quarter century ago.
The UND Indian Association (UNDIA) was founded in 1968, an organization that over the years has provided valuable leadership experiences for Native American students who went on to distinguish themselves as UND alumni. Other Indian organizations eventually were created as well, and the issue of racist behavior toward Native Americans began to appear on their agendas.
As it turned out, all three of UND’s most recent presidents were called upon to face the issue of Indian imagery early in their respective administrations.
The administration of Thomas Clifford (1971-1992) began with protests and violence directed initially against a fraternity that had erected an obscene ice sculpture with a Native American theme. President Clifford, whose commitment to providing educational access and opportunity to Native Americans was unquestioned, negotiated with the aggrieved parties (including leaders of the national American Indian Movement) and agreed to eliminate those aspects of the use of Native American imagery that were clearly demeaning and offensive.
Virtually all Indian-related logos and symbols, including the popular “Sammy Sioux” caricature, disappeared. Although the Chicago Blackhawk logo, which had been used by the hockey team since the late 1960s, was retained, a new geometric Indian head logo was introduced in 1976 and adopted for most athletic purposes.
Clifford also insisted that Indian imagery be used with respect, and took steps to ensure that students, fans and others were aware of UND policy regarding the symbols. He also intensified UND’s efforts to include a focus on Native Americans in the curriculum, initially through a minor in Indian Studies, and to develop yet more programs to assist students.
In 1977, Clifford convinced the North Dakota Legislature to provide permanent state funding for both a new academic Department of Indian Studies and a separate Native American Programs office to coordinate support services for Indian students. Clifford also encouraged the Chester Fritz Library to build upon its important collection of Indian documents and artifacts (its famous White Bull manuscript, written by an Indian fighter at the Little Big Horn, has received international attention).
Encouraged by Clifford, Laurel Reuter, included a strong Native American emphasis in her development of what is today the North Dakota Museum of Art. During the state’s Centennial in 1989, UND was given responsibility for working with the tribes to ensure that native peoples were recognized in the celebration.
As the Clifford administration ended, UND began to see more Indian students who asserted their belief in preserving and living by traditional Indian values. One response was a new policy permitting the burning of sweet grass and other plants in UND housing as part of spiritual ceremonies.
Traditionalists occasionally found themselves in conflict with other Indian students who did not wish to mix ideology with the pursuit of their academic degrees.
In April 1987, a group of traditional students staged a highly publicized sit-in at the Native American Center to protest what it termed the University’s lack of responsiveness on a number of issues. For a time, the controversy created tension between factions of Indian students. The dispute was resolved, in part, through mediation provided by alumnus David Gipp, president of the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck.
Gipp was but one of a new generation of Native American leaders who, among other things, had created two-year colleges on each of the reservations. The tribal colleges, and the recruitment of Native American students by other colleges and universities in the state and around the country, had begun to offer alternatives to prospective Indian students who previously would have attended UND. Moreover, other pressures from the reservations were manifesting themselves, and would become sharper in the Baker administration.
Clifford’s last public statement on the use of the name and symbol, often quoted during the present debate, was published in a newspaper interview on March 15, 1991: “I just don’t see the reason for changing it right now. The very leaders of the Sioux Nation supported that. When the leaders of the Sioux Nation come and tell me they don’t want it, I’ll respect that.”
Baker Administration: The team name issue
Shortly after the beginning of the Kendall Baker administration (1992-1999), an ugly incident occurred when a number of white students hurled epithets at a group of Native American children in traditional dance regalia who were riding a Homecoming float.
During the subsequent controversy, the Standing Rock tribal council requested that UND change the team name, and the University Senate approved a resolution opposing continued use of the Fighting Sioux name. Baker convened two well-attended Universitywide forums and visited the North Dakota reservations to seek input.
He announced his decision on July 27, 1993: UND would not change the name, although, as he had announced in January, it would drop the Blackhawk logo. A committee would be formed to propose steps that could be taken by the Athletic Department to ensure respectful use of the team name: one result was a mandatory public address announcement before every athletic event.
Baker asserted, the University would renew its commitment to cultural diversity with new, positive activity on many fronts, and would leave open the question of the team name for further discussion and education. This remained the position of the Baker Administration, despite at least five developments:
(1) The appearance of new campus organizations such BRIDGES (Building Roads into Diverse Groups Empowering Students) and the Native Media Center, committed to keeping the issue alive;
(2) The appearance of particularly vulgar cheering (such as “Sioux suck!”) and imprinted clothing worn by fans from opposing teams and depicting, as an example, a bison having sex with an Indian;
(3) An incident of “hate crime” in 1996 in which the life of an Indian student was threatened (one response was a rare joint letter by Baker and
Chancellor Larry Isaak to tribal officials reaffirming their commitment to diversity);
(4)Efforts by former hockey players, including alumnus Ralph Engelstad, to bring back the Blackhawk logo; and
(5) The unsuccessful effort to get the State Legislature to urge a name change.
President Baker’s last public statement on the issue was read into the record at a legislative hearing on February 5, 1999:
“A controversy over the use of the Sioux team name was among the first issues that faced me when I came to North Dakota in 1992. After much conversation and consultation, it was my conclusion that there was no consensus on this issue, not even among Native Americans. I decided, therefore, that the respectful use of the team name should continue and, indeed, that the appropriate use of the name could be a positive influence in helping UND encourage respect and appreciation for diversity in all of its forms. Although some individuals disagreed with me then, as they do today, this remains
my position on the issue.”
“In closing, let me be very clear: Although the approach UND took regarding the team name was and is, in my view, an appropriate one, I also have stated on numerous public occasions that the issue remains on the agenda for dialogue, discussion, and learning.”
Baker Administration: New challenges
As indicated earlier, President Baker also inherited new circumstances with respect to UND’s Native American constituency. Although the University Senate had set a goal of increasing Indian enrollment to match that segment’s percentage of the state’s population, it proved to be an elusive goal.
Much of the “progress” shown to date is more related to a sharp decline in white enrollment than to a large increase in the number of Indian students. In the 1990 census, self-identified Native Americans accounted for 25,305 of the state’s 638,800 residents (3.96%).
In the fall of 1992, Native Americans accounted for 306 of UND’s enrollment of 12,289 (2.49%), compared to 349 of 10,590, or 3.38%, in the
fall of 1999.
One reason for the slow progress was the “cherry picking” by out-of-state schools of Native American high school seniors. There also were new efforts by other in-state colleges, especially North Dakota State and Minot State Universities, to develop Indian related programs of their own and to more actively recruit Native American students.
Some have argued that the continued use of the Fighting Sioux team name and logo was a factor in some Indian students choosing not to attend UND.
In the fall of 1999, there were 855 self-identified Native Americans enrolled within the North Dakota University System. All 11 campuses enrolled Native Americans, with the largest number of them, 349, being at UND. Minot State University enrolled 148 and NDSU 94.
But perhaps the key factor restraining enrollment growth at UND was the remarkable development of the five tribal colleges (with much of the leadership coming from administrators and faculty with UND degrees). In recent years, the tribal colleges have been accredited, have made vast strides with respect to facilities, and have exerted considerable influence through joint action, both in the state and nationally (there are 30 tribal colleges in the U.S.).
Tribal college enrollment in North Dakota in the fall of 1999 was 1,045 students. In recent years, the North Dakota University System has welcomed the tribal colleges as partners in the state higher education scene, for example, by encouraging “articulation” in curricular matters, developing a cultural diversity tuition waiver program (which has benefitted more than 1,500 Indian students since 1993, the largest number at UND), and assisting the tribal campuses in upgrading their technology.
The system has remained neutral on the question of legislative appropriations for the tribal colleges. During the Baker administration, the leadership of the tribal colleges and tribal councils began to make new requests of the University. For example, they pressed for more direct financial aid and for more access to UND’s highly selective programs, especially in the health professions.
The tribal college councils and presidents formally objected to an interpretation of Indian history included in a textbook written by a UND faculty member (she eventually agreed to rephrase the offending passage in the book’s next edition).
The tribal presidents, supported by the councils, requested an end to the practice of grant proposals being written for reservation-related projects without the permission and participation of the reservations themselves, including a sharing in the overhead monies (today, most granting agencies insist on this practice).
And, as detailed below, the use of the Fighting Sioux team name and logo continued to receive attention on the reservations.
Baker Administration: Initiatives
Beginning in the early 1990s, UND no longer found itself the only act in the state with respect to the educating of Native American students. Nonetheless, the Baker administration initiated a number of new efforts to broaden its commitment to promoting diversity.
University funds were allocated to two committees charged with supporting diversity activities, and increased subsidies were allocated to events such as the annual pow wows of the UND Indian Association and the INMED program. In 1996, the Native American Center was moved to a more accessible location, and the Baker Administration stated its support of a Bremer Foundation-backed effort to raise private funds for a new center.
But perhaps the most significant development was the “bottom up” proliferation of new, mostly externally funded academic and service programs geared to Native American students in such fields as nursing, law, communication and psychology. The University also became involved in new reservation connected programs, particularly in the health and education sectors.
UND’s best-known program, the federally funded “Indians into Medicine” program (INMED), which in its quarter century of service has trained a significant number of the Indian physicians practicing in the United States, continued to prosper.
As the Kupchella administration began, the University listed 32 separate Indian-related initiatives and programs(5), clearly indicating UND’s status as one
of the nation’s premier universities in its commitment to providing access and opportunity for Native Americans.
On July 1, 1999, Charles E. Kupchella inherited the Baker position on the issue of the Fighting Sioux team name and logos. As with his two predecessors, the honeymoon was short. The news that UND had decided upon a new Indian head symbol for its athletic teams ignited another controversy, in part because proponents of an eventual name change perceived that the University had changed its open-minded position about further discussion of the issue.
President Kupchella summarized the situation, and his intentions, in a message to the University community at the beginning of the spring semester:
“One of the issues we will continue to address as the New Year begins is use of the logo-nickname. We will consider this in the context of our collective interest in building on our tradition of a positive campus climate as part of the strategic planning process already under way. As I indicated at a recent University Senate meeting, my approval of a new logo obviously touched a sore spot that has been present for many decades.”
“I saw the new logo as a respectful addition to a series of already existing athletic program logos, including other Indian symbols, used in conjunction with the long-standing Sioux nickname. I had already come to take great pride in the fact that the University has many noteworthy programs in support of Native American students.”
“As it turned out, much, if not all, of the negative reaction to the logo was really a reaction to the nickname. Some apparently saw the introduction of the new logo as a reversal of a trend toward ultimately doing away with the nickname or, at the very least, “entrenchment” on the name issue. I did not see it that way.”
“As we look ahead to the question of how or if we will continue to use the nickname, there are a number of factors to be considered. On the one hand, there is the question of whether an organization should be able to use the name of a group of people over the objection of any number of people in that group. Even if the answer to this is “no,” there is also the fact that all living alumni of the University of North Dakota have grown up with the Fighting Sioux tradition and many, if not most, are very proud of it.”
“Many of these alumni are bewildered and hurt that anyone would question the University’s intent of being respectful. They
all know that the University has made and is making a significant commitment to ensure the success of Native American students. Because alumni support is a hallmark of the University of North Dakota, this is not a factor that can be dismissed out of hand.”
“Also, the situation facing the University of North Dakota is not isolated. There has been and continues to be a vigorous debate nationwide about the appropriateness of using Native American names and images for athletic teams. Thus, there are a number of important dimensions to the issue that
must be considered carefully.”
“As I educate myself about the issue, I find that there are many unknowns and that those on different sides of the issue seem to have different sets of “facts,” as well as different perspectives. There are individual faculty, staff, and students, including Native American students, on all sides of the issue.”
“On January 27, the University Council will consider this issue. Following that, I will work with the University Senate and the Strategic Planning Committee in the formation of a group to examine the issue and to make recommendations to me on its resolution.”
“I will ask this group to help clarify the issues involved, to assess the range of positions on the issue held by members of various stakeholder groups, and to gauge the need for “education” about the issue. I will also ask the group to consider how other campuses facing similar issues have resolved them. I will
need the help of many people in order to resolve the issue to the long-range benefit of the University of North Dakota.”
“Particularly needed is the involvement of people who, even though they may hold a particular position, can articulate, understand, and respect opposing points of view.”
A New Presidential Commission
In February, Dr. Kupchella named the commission. He asked it to find the missing information he needs to make a decision, provide education for each other and all interested in the issues, and to examine the experiences of UND and other universities that have wrestled with nickname changes.
The Commission, he said, should outline alternative courses of action, indicating how negative impacts of each can best be reduced. Kupchella said that he, not the Commission, will make the ultimate decision.
The members include: Phil Harmeson, associate dean of the UND College of Business and Public Administration and UND’s Faculty Athletics Representative to the NCAA, who will serve as chair;George Sinner, former North Dakota governor and member of the State Board of Higher Education and retired farmer and business executive; Allen Olson, former North Dakota governor and now executive director of the Independent Community Bakers Association of Minnesota; Jim R. Carrigan, former Colorado Supreme Court justice and a retired U.S. district judge who is now a consultant on mediation and arbitration; Richard Becker, president of Becker Marketing Consultants and past president of the UND Alumni Association; Cynthia Mala, executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission and a member of the Spirit Lake Nation; Fred Lukens, president of Simmons Advertising and a former UND basketball player; Nadine Tepper, UND assistant professor of teaching and learning; Leigh Jeanotte, director of the UND Office of Native American Programs and an assistant to UND’s vice president for student and outreach services; Michael Jacobsen, UND professor and chair
of social work; Roger Thomas, UND athletic director; Cec Volden, UND professor of nursing and an associate member of UND’s Conflict Resolution Center; Kathleen Gershman, UND professor of teaching and learning; Pamela End of Horn, a UND student from Pine Ridge, S.D. and a member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe; Angela LaRocque, a UND graduate student from Belcourt and a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chipewa; and Chris Semrau, a UND student from Minot who currently serves as student body president.
The question of “permission”
What has been the position of the Indian peoples themselves, and especially of the 26 separately governed tribal groups, 16 located in five different states and 10 in three Canadian provinces, that make up the peoples known as “the Sioux,” or more precisely, the Dakota, Lakota and Nakota?
This question is complicated by the fact that many Native Americans live off the reservations. In North Dakota, for example, some 40 percent of the persons who identified themselves as Native Americans in the 1990 census — 10,022 of 25,303 — were “urban” Indians.
These “urban” Indians, as well as others of mixed blood who no longer officially identify themselves as Native Americans but who may have Indian features, tend to experience more acts of racism (such as the taunting of their children) than do
Indians residing on reservations.
Until 1992, the Sioux tribal councils in the Dakotas had not taken formal positions on the team name issue. Much has been made of an incident that occurred in 1968 and was reported upon at the time in the Grand Forks Herald.
A delegation from the Standing Rock Reservation headed by “Chief” Bernard Standing Crow, then coordinator of the Standing Rock Sioux Head Start Program, traveled to UND to “adopt” then President George Starcher into the Standing Rock Tribe and to give him an Indian name (“the Yankton Chief “), as well as to, in the words of the article, formally give UND “the right to use the name of ‘Fighting Sioux’ for their athletic teams.”
Although no documentation has been found at UND, the Herald article has credibility because it was written by Art Raymond, a Native American himself, and later UND’s first director of Indian Studies. On the other hand, the Standing Rock Tribal Council appears not to have been involved.
It is clear, however, that the Standing Rock Tribal Council was the first to ask UND to change the name, in a formal tribal resolution dated December 3, 1992 (and affirmed on December 2, 1998). The UND President’s Office also received and has on file six other resolutions from tribal councils requesting a name change, all of them seemingly generated in response to appeals by a UND student advocacy organization.
The resolutions include those of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Yankton Sioux Tribe, the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.
What is public opinion on this issue?
What do UND faculty, students, alumni and the residents of the state feel about the Fighting Sioux issue? Some say the solution is simple: majority rule. But is there a point at which “popular” can indeed become “oppressive”? Even many advocates of the
Fighting Sioux team name agree that its future should NOT be decided by a “vote,” even in the unlikely event that such a referendum was possible.
The assumption has long been that public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of retaining the name. This appears to be true with respect to the student body.
In the spring of 1999, after the UND Student Senate adopted a resolution advocating a name change (vetoed by the student body president), student government commissioned a scientific survey by the Bureau of Governmental Affairs. It indicated that 83.4% of the student body were either “strongly opposed” or “opposed” to changing the name.
Over the years, at least two other legitimate student surveys have explored the issue. In 1987, a survey of Indian students by the Student Affairs Division found that 64% of the respondents approved the use of the term “Fighting Sioux.” However, Indian student approval appears to have waned. In November 1995 a “campus climate” survey of all students measured responses to the statement, “UND’s use of the Sioux name/logo isculturally insensitive.”
Some 79.1% of white students disagreed with that statement, while just 29.6% of Native Americans disagreed.
Besides the Student Senate, two other UND-connected bodies have adopted resolutions on the issue of athletic team names:
At its July 1972 meeting, the State Board of Higher Education instructed its institutions to review potentially offensive usage and to make appropriate changes. The motion stated “that recognizing that educational institutions are expected to exercise leadership in helping to solve problems of social relations and human understandings in this society; that they are expected to promulgate such basic American concepts as the worth and dignity of the individual regardless of race or creed; and that an education must be concerned not only with the cognitive behavioral change through the development of such qualities as tolerance, empathy, and brotherhood.
The Board of Higher Education directs all of the colleges and universities under its jurisdiction to re-examine their use of various athletic mascots, team nicknames, slogans, symbols, and rituals with a view toward assessing their appropriateness and suitability and with special concern as to their potential for offensiveness to particular racial or ethnic groups within this diverse society in which we live.
The Board further directs that all institutions make appropriate changes in these traditions.” The then Dickinson State College soon thereafter became one of the first in the country to change its team name, replacing the “Savages” with the “Bluehawks.”
At its March 1993 meeting, the University Senate, responding to the Homecoming float incident, voted 34 to 10 with five abstentions to recommend that the Fighting Sioux name be changed.
No scientific survey of alumni opinion has been done, although the author of this paper did conduct a readership survey in the late 1970s that indicated 40 percent of the recipients wanted no sports coverage in the Alumni Review (another 40 percent wanted more sports coverage), perhaps not an unusual finding since only a minority of UND’s more than 10,500 enrolled students attend sports events.
A credible, scientific survey of alumni opinion, and of the intensity of alumni holding various positions on the issue,
might be useful. There has been no shortage of petition drives on the issue.
The files of the President’s Office contain the results of several, on both sides of the issue. One of them, containing
the signatures of virtually all living former varsity hockey players and advocating the return of the Chicago Blackhawk logo, was organized by alumnus Ralph Engelstad.
This petition may be the origin of widespread speculation that Mr. Engelstad’s later $100 million gift may have been conditioned with an understanding that the name would not be changed.
Petitions, letters to the editor, and the quantity and content of media coverage must be considered, of course, since they often do reflect the views of those individuals who choose to communicate in that fashion. On the other hand, these methods of communication are particularly subject to manipulation by the advocates of a particular point of view.
Many a law-maker, for example, has learned to his or her regret that the number of phone calls received on an issue may not reflect the majority views of the voters back home.
The national scene
The movement to abolish the use of Indian mascots, symbols and team names is not a local issue, but rather a national one, with its own activist organizations (the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media, for example), clearinghouses, Web sites and so forth. Local news stories about the UND controversy appeared immediately on Web sites around the country (the BRIDGES group operates its own Web site, linked to many others on the national scene).
These activist organizations operate at a number of levels, and despite the occasional public protest, mostly through educational, political and public relations activity. Much of the nation’s intellectual community appears to be solidly on their side (the Web sites are filled with scholarly articles on the subject). All in all, the movement appears to be quietly achieving some success.
So far, according to an estimate by activist Suzan Shown Harjo, about one third of the 3,000 Indian-related team names that existed 30 years ago have been changed. Much of the movement is directed against the use of Indian team names by high schools (the state with the most teams so named is Ohio, with 217), as well as against professional sports teams such as the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.
The movement to pressure college teams to end their use of Indian names and symbols appears to have begun with a big victory in 1968, when Dartmouth University changed from the “Indians” to the “Big Green.” Since then, a number of schools have changed their names and/or symbols or mascots, including Marquette University, Stanford University, Dickinson (N.D.) State University, University of Oklahoma, Syracuse University, Southern Oregon University, Sienna College, St. Mary’s College, Eastern Michigan University, University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, Central Michigan University, Simpson College, St. John’s University, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Morningside College, Brainerd Community College, Mankato State University, Miami University of Ohio, Springfield College, Adams State University, Yakima College, Southern Nazarene University, Chemeketa Community College, St. Bonaventure University, Oklahoma City University, Hendrix College, and Seattle University.
Some universities have resisted pressure to change, including most prominently the Florida State University “Seminoles” and the University of Illinois “Illini.” The controversy in Illinois was recently depicted in an award-winning Public Television documentary, “In Whose Honor?”
The Florida State situation is often pointed to as a case in which a tribe has formally consented to the use of its name and even to such practices as non-Indians wearing tribal regalia during football games.
There are, in fact, two Seminole tribes, the larger one in Oklahoma. The Seminole tribe of Florida, which gave the approval, was recognized as a tribe in 1957 and consists about 2,000 members scattered on six small reservations. The Seminoles of Oklahoma, evicted from Florida by the federal government in the early nineteenth century, number about 12,000.
Another aspect of the national situation involves the taking of formal positions by various organizations against the use of Indian sports team names. Among groups who have done so are the National Education Association, the National Congress of American Indians, the United Methodist Church, the American Jewish Committee, the American Anthropological Association, the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the University of Wisconsin, Native American Journalists Association, the Society of Indian Psychologists, the Society for the Study of Indigenous Languages, the Linguistic Society of America, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
State civil rights commissions and other government entities have also been aggressive in many states, including neighboring Minnesota. Both the U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission have become involved in these issues. Just recently the U.S. Census Bureau issued a memorandum prohibiting the use in promotional activities of sports team names and imagery that refer to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Summary: Pro and con in brief
It is difficult to summarize all of the arguments that have been mounted by those who take a position on the issue of the Fighting Sioux team name and symbol. Clearly, there are zealots on both sides of the spectrum. Less obvious are the shades of opinion among those in the middle zone (and, accordingly, their willingness to alter their views one way or the other).
But with those caveats, for the sake of discussion, these seem to be the pro and con positions. Proponents argue that the use of the name and symbol is meant to be a mark of respect for the Native peoples of the state and region, signifying the University’s appreciation of their history and culture, as well as its continuing commitment to providing access and opportunity to Indian students and of being of service to Native people on the reservations.
The word “Sioux” evokes positive feelings, not negative feelings. The top achievement award of the UND Alumni Association, second only in prestige to an honorary degree, has long been known as the “Sioux Award.” There is no intent to hurt anyone. It is further contended that many Native Americans support the use of the name and symbol, and that those Indians who protest are a small minority. Symbols similar to UND’s geometric logo (and the new Ben Brien-designed symbol) are popular on many reservations.
Some proponents concede that racist acts can occur in the environment created by the use of the name and the symbol, but rarely, especially since the University insists upon respectful behavior. Changing the team name and symbol would not prevent the possibility of racist acts, and, in fact, would remove an important mechanism for actively encouraging respect for diversity in all of its forms.
Regarding the meeting of the needs of Native Americans, the University’s record stands for itself, attested to by the existence of numerous Indian-related programs and other evidence. Those who focus exclusively on the name issue, it is argued, should instead concentrate their considerable energy on solving the remaining problems faced by Indians. But there is a more positive argument, too, in favor of continued use of the name: tradition, and the benefits that tradition can bring.
For most athletes and sports fans, alumni, students and residents of the state, the Fighting Sioux name and symbol evoke positive memories and perceptions of the University, as well as of Native Americans. Virtually everyone who pays attention to UND has known its sports teams as “the Fighting Sioux” for their entire lives, and among these people there is overwhelming sentiment not to change the name.
In fact, the positive feelings generated by the name and logo are translated into tangible support for the University, in dollars and cents and otherwise. The geometric Indian symbol alone generates the bulk of the $60,000 UND receives annually in royalties, most of which is spent on diversity-related projects.
Challenging or modifying this tradition – and especially when one implies that to support the Fighting Sioux name is to be a racist – is
to risk damage to the institution and its future.
Opponents argue that the use of Indian images in today’s sports world has nothing to do with “honoring” Native American people; rather, these are isolated images snipped from the mythology (and misconceptions) of the West for the pleasure of a large majority that is fundamentally unaware of, or unconcerned with, the culture of a living people.
There are indeed respectful ways to honor Native Americans through the use of Indian names and imagery, but using them for high school, college or professional sports is not one of them. Sports are intended to be “fun,” they argue, so it is impossible to truly control the verbal behavior of unruly fans, especially those from other schools.
Much of the “fun” of being a sports fan seems to include cheering against one’s opponent. Actions such as the “Sioux suck!” chant, the “tomahawk chop,” war whooping, etc., inevitably demean Indians, especially the young, even if such behavior is not motivated by racism. And racism, although involving a small minority, IS an issue: one who listens carefully to the current debate cannot avoid hearing it.
Manifestations of racism are inevitable, the opponents argue, whenever a group of people is trivialized, in this case by becoming an athletic symbol. Moreover, the “values” that are being “honored” through the use of Indian imagery – bravery, stoicism, fierceness in battle, etc. – are all too often stereotyped, more the creation of Hollywood than accurate reflections of the past.
Before and during the period of white settlement, many Indian tribes abhorred and avoided the warfare of the times, whether carried out by Indians or non-Indians. The stereotyping of Indian history and culture gets in the way of people understanding the contributions of and the challenges to modern-day Native Americans.
The continuing controversy itself creates a threatening and hostile environment for Indian students, regardless of their position or degree of activism on the Fighting Sioux issue. UND’s commitment to Indian-related programming (funded mostly with external grants, not state dollars or alumni contributions) is much appreciated, but is not “compensation” for the use of the Sioux name.
Finally, opponents argue, the flow of history is against those who wish to perpetuate the use of Indian imagery for sports purposes. A growing number of national organizations have taken a stand against such uses.
Many high schools and universities have changed or are in the process of changing their Indian-related team names. Those who resist the flow of history will eventually fail, opponents argue, and will be remembered in the way Orval Faubus and George Wallace are recalled today.
So, who gets to decide the Native American Mascot issue?
Technically, the State Board of Higher Education could decide, as could the State Legislature. As reported earlier in this paper, both of these bodies have gone on record that such a decision is best left to the campus.
There are other possibilities: the National Collegiate Athletic Association (as noted earlier, one of its committees already is on record as being opposed to racially based team names) could intervene, and, one can speculate, may do so if the remaining Division I schools such as Florida State and the University of Illinois end the practice.
UND’s academic accrediting agency, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, has been challenged to take a stand on the issue as part of its commitment to multiculturalism.
Another possible external force may be the federal government, either through the Federal Trade Commission, which already has ruled that Indian logos cannot be trademarked (an appeal will be resolved shortly) or through the Justice Department, which has intervened in a North Carolina case in a way that suggests more litigation is on the way. For now, however, the decision appears to lie entirely in the hands of the President of the University of North Dakota.
Author: by David Vorland, Assistant to the President, University of North Dakota (UND)
How are Native Americans affected by stereotyping?
In nations with histories where ethnic minorities were victims of persecution, oppression, slavery, or genocide, the dominant culture typically creates prejudicial attitudes toward the minority group as a justification for the actions of the oppressor group.
Stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism towards Natives exist in this context, a nation’s history built because of oppression and genocide (Cox, 1948; Trimble, 1988). As noted above, research on racism against Native Americans has received very little attention.
Little research exists on the role racial prejudice and stereotyping play as a barrier in the American Indian educational experience. Some research has demonstrated that when one group of experimental subjects is directed to inflict pain or harm to members of another experimental group of subjects, the “victim” group is routinely derogated and dehumanized verbally by the “oppressor” group (Davis & Jones, 1960; Glass, 1964; Worchel
& Andreoli, 1978).
By developing such negative attitudes toward their own victims, “exploiters can not only avoid thinking of themselves as villains, but they can also justify
further exploitation” (Franzoi, 1996, p. 394).
Negative stereotypes and attitudes toward Native Americans have served precisely the same function: to protect the historical oppressors from a sense of guilt over the atrocities committed on Natives and to justify further exploitation.
Native Americans as well as other ethnic minorities in America today “become acutely aware of the [negative] evaluations of their ethnic group by the majority white culture” (Santrock, 1997, p. 402).
In a study of identity formation among minorities, Phinney (1989) reported that African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans all suffer from negative stereotypes imposed by the dominant American culture, which denigrates precisely those
aspects of ethnic culture that minorities most prize.
Zakhar (1987) investigated the experiences of Native American in higher education. Archival, survey, interview, and observational data were used in the analysis. The study revealed that Native American college students encountered stereotyping and racism early in their formal school experiences. Students in the study confronted personal, institutional, and other forms of indirect racism throughout their college experience.
The study clearly indicated that the emotional and academic tolls were heavy for Native Americans at an urban university where they were the minority.
Huffman (1991) conducted a study on the experiences, perceptions, and consequences of campus racism among a sample of Northern Plains Native Americans. Huffman used both a quantitative and qualitative approach, with college students attending asmall Midwestern university.
He obtained information on cultural, social, academic, and financial problems encountered by Native American students. In addition, information was gathered on the experiences of cultural conflict, relationships with other Natives and non-Natives, evaluation of the positive and negative nature of the college experience, and major concerns/problems encountered in college.
Huffman reported that racism toward Native American students was most often expressed in the form of verbal attacks. He noted that the more traditionally oriented Native American students were more sensitive to racial comments. Non-Natives most often used name-calling and racial slurs arising from
Although a small sample, the majority of the Native students interviewed (16 of the 22) related a perception of the campus setting as being in some way a
hostile environment. Some students related feelings of being an outsider and unwelcome by their college community.
Research regarding the adverse outcome of such negative stereotypes on the functioning of minorities in America is voluminous (see Spencer & Dornbusch, 1990, for an overview). Nowhere are such negative appraisals of minority groups more blatant than in the mascots and Native American names of sports teams that proliferate in the American education system.
While other minority groups in America must endure negative stereotypes, Natives are the only minority group that continues to have these stereotypes advertised in federally and state funded colleges and universities. It is argued that Native American mascots help to promote and perpetuate the dehumanizing stereotypes that developed among European colonizers centuries ago.
As such, they are harmful to both Natives and non-Natives. Natives endure the psychological damage of seeing cartoon-like caricatures of themselves embodied in the mascots, perhaps the ultimate in dehumanizing victims. Native American mascots may also harm non-Natives, for they perpetuate
stereotypes that impair students from learning accurate accounts of American history and Native/European American relations throughout the post-contact era (Pewewardy, 1999).
From a Social Dominance Theory (SDT), (Sidanius, 1993; Sidanius & Pratto, 1993, 1999) perspective, it can be postulated that the continued use of the Fighting Sioux logo and other Native mascots constitute a form of social dominance; acting as an “hierarchy-enhancing” force to maintain the inequality between the dominant group of European Americans and the subordinate group of Native Americans.
As the social dominance theory posits, the dominant group controls the allocation of resources, here the use of the “Sioux” name. The core premise of SDT states that organized hierarchies of socially constructed groups exist in societies and one or more dominant group enjoys disproportionate levels of power and status relative to one or more subordinate group.
This inequality is maintained through a psychological mechanism termed social dominance orientation (SDO), the degree to which group-based forms of
dominance and inequality are favored. SDO is considered to manifest itself through common factors, such as psychological tendencies for prejudice, cultural ideologies, and discriminatory behaviors, which combine to maintain social group hierarchies (Pratto, Liu, Levin, Sidanius, Shih, Bachrach, & Hegarty, 2000; Pratto, Sidanius, Stallworth, & Malle,1994).
SDT and the mechanism through which it operates, SDO, is theorized to account for social statuses and academic achievement gaps between groups (Van Laar & Sidanius, 2001; Van Laar, Sidanius, Rabinowitz, & Sinclair, 1999), ethnic and cultural inequalities (Pratto et al., 2000), favoritism for high-status groups (Levin, Frederico, Sidanius, & Rabinowitz, 2002), and personal and institutional discrimination (Pratto, Stallworth, Sidanius, & Siers, 1997; Sidanius, Pratto, & Bobo, 1996; Sidanius, Pratto, Sinclair, & Van Laar, 1996).
Native American activist groups have called on professional and college teams to change their names referring to them as pejorative, derogatory, offensive, and racist, citing that the names themselves create more negative stereotypes and acts of discrimination against Native people (National Coalition on Racism in Sports & Media, 1999).
Professional and college teams often attempt to counter this with the argument that the names promote positive attributes of Native Americans such as pride and courage, the names and mascots honor Native people and help educate the public about Native American tribes (Sigelman, 1998). However, no published empirical research exists investigating if or how Native team mascots affect stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination in either direction.
In addition, how the endorsement of team names and mascots by some Native people affect stereotypes, prejudice, and the in-group/out-group dynamics has not been investigated. In an area where cultural in-groups and out-groups exist, concepts derived from Social Identity Theory (SIT; Tajfel & Turner, 1979, 1986) namely the in-group bias (Mullen, Brown and Smith 1992) and out-group homogeneity effect (Judd & Park, 1990; Linville Fischer, & Salovey, 1989; Park & Rothbart, 1982) allow for the empirical study of prejudice and discrimination surrounding the team mascot issue.
The in-group bias refers to the tendency for groups to show favoritism toward members of their own social group over other groups. SIT posits that people are motivated by the need to feel positive self-esteem, which leads to the belief that the groups we belong to are better than other groups. It follows that people will evaluate in-group members, and by proxy themselves, more positively than members of other groups.
Several studies have consistently provided evidence that individuals provided more rewards and resources in the form of tokens to members of in-groups over members of out-groups (Allen & Wilder,1975; Ng, 1982). Mullen et al. (1992) found that individuals tend to evaluate in-group members more favorably than out-group members.
There is also evidence that in-group members are more likely to remember negative behaviors of out-group members (Howard & Rothbart, 1980). These studies suggest that individuals favor members of their own groups over members of other groups relating to interpersonal evaluation and in terms of resource allocation.
Out-group homogeneity refers to the tendency for group members to see their own group as more diverse and variable than members of other groups. Two current conceptualizations of the out-group homogeneity effect are mentioned here. Linville et al. (1989) propose a multiple exemplar model suggesting that variability judgments are formed in a process of recalling examples of group members they have encountered over time.
The out-group homogeneity effect occurs because of the greater range and degree of contact with in-group members; therefore, people have more in-group exemplars than out-group exemplars. Park and Judd (1990) propose that individuals estimate the variability of groups both on the degree in which members differ from the group mean and the degree in which members fit the stereotype of the group. Thus, when they see all members of an out-group
as similar to their stereotype for that group or when all out-group members are seen in the same way, the out-group homogeneity effect occurs.
Based on these concepts within SIT predictions can be made on what the effects of these social categorizations (i.e. non-Native vs. Native or pro-mascot vs. anti-mascot) will have on the level of prejudice and discrimination for these in-group/out-group dynamics.
According to SIT, in simple categorization situations (non-Native vs. Native) perceivers engage in social comparison processes, based on assessing perceived in-group/out-group similarities, while seeking positive distinctiveness for the in-group and thus obtaining a positive self-evaluation. This process, in which individuals engage in social comparison, accounts for the discrimination that occurs when evaluating members of other groups.
In a multiple categorization situation (non-Native vs. Native and pro-mascot vs. anti-mascot) SIT would predict an additive combination of tendencies to discriminate, with double in-groups receiving the most positive rating, double out-groups the most negative, and partial groups somewhere in the middle.
While social comparison maintains that the degree of similarity between the groups leads to the additive tendency to discriminate, partial group members are still discriminated against because they include at least one out-group factor (Crisp & Hewstone, 2000; Gardner, MacIntyre, & Lolonde, 1995).
Social Dominance Theory (SDT) extends the idea that the in-group bias and out-group homogeneity effect are an attempt to achieve positive group
distinctiveness; positing there may also be a desire for group-based forms of inequality and dominance. Thus, patterns of in-group bias also may serve the function of perpetuating existing group-based hierarchies (Sidanius, 1993; Sidanius & Pratto, 1993, 1999).
The Fighting Sioux Nickname/Logo
The Fighting Sioux name has been used by the University of North Dakota (UND) since 1930. Around 1970, Native people began to question the appropriateness of the nickname and logo. Since then, several surveys inquiring about a name change have indicated the majority of the student body and alumni want to keep the name and logo, but Native American students, and the majority of faculty are in favor of a name change.
Because of this, previous university presidents, officials, and the current president have debated the issue and promoted university policies to support cultural diversity and cultural sensitivity toward Native American students.
In recent years, controversial decisions were made regarding the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. For example, in 2001 the
North Dakota State Board of Higher Education preempted the current UND president’s (Charles Kupchella) decision to form a commission and seriously consider a name change.
It was decided to keep the Fighting Sioux Nickname and adopt a new logo that is similar to the Chicago Black Hawk logo. More controversy followed.
It was suggested the decision was based on financing of the new Engelstad Arena when a letter from Ralph Engelstad surfaced indicating threatened withdrawal of the $100 million in funding. Local Native leaders also pointed to the new logo, saying it is not representative of the Lakota/Sioux Nation.
There have been numerous protests against its use by a number of Native American students, some faculty, and non-Indian students who find the name and logo offensive.
In addition, a history of racial incidents on the UND campus has occurred in relation to the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. For example, banners were found hanging in Merrifield Hall with statements “If the name has to go, so should your funding” in bold letters, and “go back to the Rez, or work at the casino PRAIRIE NIGGA”.
The second banner carried a similar message (Bridges, 2003). Incidents like these suggest a hostile environment and atmosphere for Native Americans on the UND campus and speak to the effects of stereotypes towards groups.
The use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo by UND is a very controversial issue. It has been controversial because Native populations and opponents of Native mascots have argued that it promotes prejudice, discrimination, and racism against Native peoples.
Another argument has been that it creates a hostile environment at UND for Native students. Proponents of the Fighting Sioux name and logo have argued they support and honor Native peoples by the use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo and that there is no negative impact on the Native community, particularly at UND.
As both sides have argued the issue, the true effects and impact of the Fighting Sioux name and logo have become clouded in emotion and anecdotal accounts. A study was the first attempt to provide an objective empirical, quantitative data on what the impact may be on Native students at UND.
The data from this study provides objective evidence that Native students are subjected to more prejudice and discrimination, and that prejudice and discrimination varies in relation to the Fighting Sioux name and logo. In other words, Native students are not automatically valued, honored, and respected on the UND campus, as the proponents of the Fighting Sioux name/logo suggests, because Native students automatically receive more prejudice and discrimination just for being Native.
In order for a Native student to be valued, honored, and respected, the Native student has to endorse the Fighting Sioux name/logo. In addition, the White student who opposes the Fighting Sioux name/logo is still valued more than the Native student is. That is racism.
Based on these data, the continued use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo indicates that the University of North Dakota is engaging in and promoting institutional discrimination and racism. Given that, does UND want to continue to promote and engage in racism and discrimination? Is UND truly honoring Native people when the Native student is subjected to social injustice on their own campus?
Furthermore, are sport team names more important that the civil rights of one group? These are only a few questions
that result from these data.
The implications reach beyond UND. The National Collegiate Athletic Association has issues a statement denouncing the use of Native American
nicknames and mascots. This data should bolster their statement as it empirically demonstrates a negative effect.
Other colleges, universities, and professional sport teams need to ask the same question, if they want to engage in and promote racism. The
implications for the Native community are even more serious. Does one risk prejudice and discrimination by voicing opposition to the Fighting Sioux name and logo? How does a Native individual ensure their safety on the UND campus when there is a culture that promotes racism?
As with any study, limitations can apply. The limitations in this study include sample size andcharacteristics. Although diverse in academic major, the majority of the sample was freshman and sophomore standing. Given that junior and senior level students may have engaged in less social injustices, having more upper level and graduate students in the sample will increase the external validity.
Related to the external validity is the research design. Conducting experiments in a “lab” setting on psychosocial phenomenon has its drawbacks.
The opportunity for confounding variables always arises (i.e. Hawthorne effect). Because the Fighting Sioux name and logo is so controversial, student reactions can vary rapidly depending on environmental circumstances.
One limitation is that student responses could vary at another point in time. For example, student responses may be polarized in different directions during Time Out and Wacipi week at UND or when a highly publicized protest is occurring.
More studies need to occur concerning the effects of the Fighting Sioux controversy. For example, future studies need to further identity student characteristics that influence their reactions to Native students. What is it about the upper level students that resulted in less prejudice and discrimination of the Native confederate? Are there any gender effects? Would a female confederate who is Native receive similar prejudice and discrimination?
As suggested above, future studies need to consider collecting data at different points in time to determine any environmental effects. Finally, future studies may also include looking at the impact in the greater Grand Forks and North Dakota communities.
Controversy over Native American Mascots
One issue creating tension is the use of Native American team names and mascots. This is especially true in college communities with Native team names and images where Native Americans are the largest minority group.
Native Americans as Sport Team Mascots
College/university and professional sports team’s symbols and mascots are highly visible. Most often, fans take the values attributed to sport symbols seriously. A certain symbolism is projected by athletic team nicknames in general. In most cases, athletic team’s names are animals, objects, or natural phenomena.
Symbols can be positive such as bravery, courage, and strength, or negative such as brutality, fury, violence, and viciousness. However, most often Native Americans mascots and team names are symbolized with the more negative traits (Nuessel, 1994; Fuller and Manning, 1987).
Nuessel (1994) states that the “traditional image of Native Americans in the print and non-print media depicts the indigenous population as brutal, savage, inhumane, and uncivilized” (p. 109). This negative reflection of Native American people and culture results in a highly controversial issue.
Two of the ten most popular college and university team nicknames and mascots refer to Native Americans; Indians and Warriors (Nuessel, 1994). Although Franks (1982) found the most common college and university nickname was the Eagles, all nicknames associated with Native Americans in combination far outnumber the Eagles.
The most frequently used Native names are Indians, Redman, Warriors, Savages, Braves, and Chiefs (Nuessel, 1994). Even though the nickname Warrior can be associated with others besides Native Americans, the logos that accompany this nickname typically depict a caricature of a Native American.
In addition, many team nicknames relate to specific Native American groups such as the Illini, Hurons, Choctaws, Apaches, Pequots, Sioux, Chippewas,
Blackhawks, and Mohawks (Nuessel, 1994). According to Davis (1993), Native American mascots emerged in the early 1900’s at a time when Native Americans civil and legal rights were ignored.
Despite the efforts of various groups (e.g., American Indian Movement (AIM) & White Earth Land Recovery Project) to end the depiction of Native American images by athletic teams, these names remain popular around the country. Awareness has increased recently among colleges and universities concerning the reactions to their Native-related athletic team nicknames and a number of universities/colleges have changed or are considering changing their nickname (Fuller and Manning, 1987; Nuessel, 1994).
For example, Native American students at Stanford University and Dartmouth College were successful in getting their former school nickname “Indians” changed. Native American students at Dartmouth College declared the name “Indians” was an “offensive distortion of Indian culture and history that was sometimes sacrilegious.” (Fuller and Manning, 1987, p. 61).
Dartmouth officials were persuaded by their Native students and no longer wanted to perpetuate a negative and stereotypical distortion of Indigenous peoples.
Some verbal and even nonverbal behavior displayed by team fans and game attendees, such as the “tomahawk chop”, are examples of stereotyping perpetuated by Native mascots. Many generic or cartoonish Native American paraphernalia are sold to fans such as plastic tomahawks and turkey feather war bonnets or ceremonial bonnets. Many Native American tribes and individuals find such items and behavior offensive.
The use of plastic toys and inappropriate gestures mock ceremonial objects and spiritual rituals that Native people hold in deep respect. Nuessel (1994) suggests the most offensive mascot to Native Americans may be Chief Illiniwek of the University of Illinois. Nuessel writes “this derogatory, stereotypic personification of American Indians, always interpreted by a white male, often employs facial kinetic gestures (menacing waves of a tomahawk, war dances), and paralinguistic utterances (war whoops) to mimic an American Indian chief (p.109).”
The official position of the University of Illinois is that the chief honors Native Americans, asserting that the mascot’s costume is hand made by Native Americans and that the dance is authentic. University officials stated “the chief is not an invention, mascot, or caricature, or sacrilegious, but an honorable, authentic reproduction” (Slowikowski, 1993, p. 26).
However, Slowikowski reports the University of Illinois’ Chief Illiniwek never existed in any Native American tribe, nor does his dance “replicate any authentic dance that a specified tribe would’ve performed” (p. 26).
In 1991 and 1992, large groups protested against the use of the terms “Redskins” and “Braves” during the Super Bowl and World Series, respectively. Davis (1993) analyzed the protests, investigating the media coverage related to this movement. A list of arguments for and against the use of Native Americans as nicknames, logos, and mascots was presented.
Anti-mascot proponents argue the use of mascots, logos, paraphernalia, and related fan actions perpetuate racist stereotypes of Native Americans and their respective cultures. For example, as noted above, the Native American as the “bloodthirsty savage” who holds traits such as wild, aggressive, and violent is perpetuated by the use of Native’s as mascots (Davis, 1993).
LaDuke (1999) argues the “invention” or depiction of Native Americans as aggressors is particularly offensive because it distorts the historical reality.
Many Native people view the European Americans as the aggressors, raiding Native American lands and oppressing indigenous people. Another argument against the use of team mascots suggests that Native Americans are only part of the past, thus obscuring the lives and issues of contemporary Native Americans.
Davis states that, “according to some of the activists, recognizing and understanding the lives of present-day Native Americans both challenges
the stereotypes and in some ways provides evidence of past oppression (p. 13).”
Other arguments include the offensive nature of imitation or misuse of symbols that have religious significance to some Native American people. Perhaps the most common argument though, is that they negatively influence the self-image and self-esteem of Native Americans, especially Native American children (Davis, 1993).
Individuals supporting the continued use of Native American symbolism as mascots, argue the use is an honor and tribute to Native Americans, because they are viewed as people associated with bravery, strength, pride, and a fighting spirit (Davis, 1993).
Additional arguments cited by Davis include the idea that the use does not intend to offend Native Americans, that not all Native Americans object to their use, and that there are other mascots modeled after other ethnic groups such as the Vikings and the Irish and that people from these groups do not find these offensive.
Some individuals also stated that because they support Native Americans in general, it is acceptable for them to use a Native mascot. Sigelman (1998) investigated public attitudes toward the Washington Redskins professional football team.
Telephone surveys were completed in the Washington DC area and nationally. Sigelman reported that very few members of the public felt a need to change Redskins name. However, significantly higher numbers of ethnic minorities, those more educated and those who were not Washington Redskins fans supported a name change.
Washington Redskin officials defended the name claiming it “reflects positive attributes of the Native American such as dedication, courage, and pride” (Sigelman, 1998, p. 318).
Supporters of the Redskins name and logo further suggested the name implied positive elements such as bravery, wisdom, and spirituality. Based on the survey, Sigelman suggested supporters were blindly engaging in racial stereotyping and if they did realize their participation was discriminatory, they downplayed the significance.
A similar study by Fenelon (1999) was conducted in the Cleveland, OH area regarding the Cleveland Indians baseball team’s mascot “Chief Wahoo”. There were distinct European American, African American, and Native American trends seen in the results.
Despite continued protest by Native Americans, European Americans agreed that the symbol should remain under all conditions, whereas African American responses were generally neutral. More than half of the European Americans refused or failed to empathize with the Native American perspective and did not recognize “Wahoo” as offensive.Additionally for Euro-Americans, the mascot was not associated with racism (Fenelon 1999).
More recently, a national telephone survey was conducted that was published in Sports Illustrated (Price & Woo, 2002). The poll conducted by the Peter Harris Research Group for Sports Illustrated interviewed 351 Native Americans (217 living on a reservation and 134 living off) as well as 734 “sports fans.”
The results of the poll indicated that 83% of Native Americans responded that professional teams should not stop using Native nicknames, mascots, or symbols, and 79% of “sports fans” also agreed with that statement.
The pollsters further report there is a difference in opinion between Natives on or off the reservation. It was reported that only 67% of Natives living on the reservation agreed that professional teams should not stop using Native names and mascots, while 87% of Natives living off the reservation agreed that pro teams should not stop using nicknames and mascots that represent Native Americans.
In response to the question regarding the use of Redskin (as in Washington Redskins), it was reported that 57% of Natives living on the
reservation did not object to the name and 72% of Natives living off the reservation did not object. With such large percentages of the Natives polled in this study apparently supporting the use of Native American nicknames and mascots, or at least not finding them offensive, the authors suggest there is a near “total disconnect” between Native American activists and the general Native American population.
However, interpretation of the poll may not be so straightforward. Using race (Native American) as an independent variable investigating individual differences is not good science (Dole, 1994; Fairchild, 1991; Helms, Jernigan, & Mascher, 2005; Smedley & Smedley, 2005; Zuckerman, 1990), which nearly nullifies the results at worst and calls for extreme caution at best.
This relates to the methodology of how Native Americans were identified on or off the reservation. How were the participants identified as Native American: through census reports, by surname, or self-report? This information was not reported in the Sports Illustrated article. Additionally, the external validity is further questioned because of the lack of information about the sample regarding geographical location of those living on the reservation or off.
More question arise such as how many reservations were polled? Where were the reservations located? Which tribal affiliation were the Native Americans? What was their acculturation level or cultural identification?
The authors implied that Natives living on the reservation were more attached to the culture, but this may not necessarily be true. Further related to the polling of Natives on or off the reservations is the issue of economic status and who may or may not have telephone services. Another concern relates to the cultural appropriateness and competency of a phone poll.
Many Native American people have a mistrust of research in general and therefore may have provided affirming responses to such questions. These are just a few issues that need to be addressed before a real interpretation of the poll can be made of whether or not Native Americans in general find the use of Native team names and mascots offensive.
Studies on native american stereotyping
Little research investigating the effects of stereotypes and attitudes regarding Native Americans and how this relates to discrimination has been conducted. One such contemporary conflict involves the use of Native American images, logos, and names by athletic teams.
To understand the impact of images and stereotypes on the prejudice, discrimination, and racism directed toward contemporary Native Americans a historical perspective is helpful. These social issues result from centuries of social relations and policies that were oppressive and dehumanizing, shaped by the hostile attitudes of European Americans (Barrett, 2003; Berkhofer, 1979; Collier, 1947; LaDuke, 1999, Venables, 2004).
As Berkhofer suggests in his writings, an almost insidious relationship exists where the images and stereotypes of North American indigenous peoples have impacted Indian-White relations and government policies and the relations and policies have impacted the images and stereotypes.
Although many non-Natives have had minimal contact with Native Americans, non-Natives still have some image or opinion of Native Americans. In recent years, traditional depictions of Native Americans have come under critical examination because of their overt or implied racist connotation. Much of the misleading and flawed imagery derives from stereotypic portrayals of Native Americans in comic books, film, literature, history books, television, and general hearsay (Trimble, 1988).
Native American stereotypes appear in a variety of areas within American culture such as sports, art, literature, mass media (movies and television), and education. There have been some analyses examining Native American stereotypes in literature, novels, and textbooks used in history classes across the United States. Trimble (1988) reports that a 1975 analysis found that books reviewed were built on traditional and historical images of the “dirty, drunken, cruel and warring savage” and “the glorified but naïve native” (p. 189). Another analysis reported that Native Americans were described as noble savages when helping non-Native Americans and “treacherous or filthy savages” when fighting against non-Natives (Trimble, 1988, p. 189).
A comprehensive review of the literature by the American Indian Historical Society (AIHS) examined more than 300 books related to history and culture that were then used in schools across the United States (Hansen & Rouse, 1987; Trimble, 1988).
The reviewers concluded that not one book could be considered a reliable or accurate source of Native American history and culture. In fact, most books were found to contain misinformation, distortions, omissions, and were derogatory to Native Americans. Frequent references were made to Native Americans being “primitive, degrading, filthy, warlike, savage, hostile, fugitives, runaway slaves, riffraff, and bold” (Trimble, 1988, p. 189).
The mass media has also played a significant role in promoting Native American stereotypes, particularly the motion picture and television industries. They have produced a large number of films that convey another version of Native American culture and history that are often biased, unflattering, or distorted.
Films have both created and perpetuated many negative and culturally inaccurate images of Native Americans. Vrasidas (1997) argues that for many people, movies and television are their two primary sources of information. Many contemporary negative attitudes and stereotypes about Native Americans persist because television and film played a significant role of internalizing and eternalizing these misconceptions.
Native Americans were often depicted in Westerns as brutal and evil, raiding settlers, scalping them and whooping at the same time (Aleiss, 1995; Trimble, 1988). At the end of the movie, the Natives were seen as defeated and vanishing (Aleiss, 1995; Churchill, Hill, &
When Native characters were “good guys”, they were often a scout, helper, or sidekick of the non-Native, but still inferior (Trimble, 1988). Often these earlier movies were nonspecific in identifying specific tribes, and when they did, tribes were often inaccurately represented.
Native Americans in these movies almost always wore feathers or war-bonnets, cloth headbands, rode horses, and communicated by using nonverbal signals (smoke signals, birdcalls, beating a drum) (Churchill et al, 1978; Trimble,1988), characteristics which are specific to only a few plains tribes. In addition, if a Native American did speak, it was a fabricated language or broken English (Churchill et al, 1978; Trimble, 1988).
Until recently, non-Natives that looked Native American such as Hispanics, Greeks, or Italians played these roles, such as Iron Eyes Cody, Sal Mineo, Robert Blake, Charles Bronson, and Barbara Carerra.
After WW II, the film industry started to portray Native Americans somewhat more as heroes than villains. The image went from the “hostile warrior” stereotype toward an image of interracial harmony. Vrasidas (1997) acknowledges that in recent years television and film have portrayed Native Americans in a more realistic fashion, but argues Hollywood has a long way to go before changing four centuries of misrepresentations.
Edgerton (1994) conducted an analysis of the movie the Last of the Mohicans, which many suggested as representing a step in the right direction. He found there were still many Native American stereotypes endorsed in the movie, including tensions between Native Americans and Europeans, and the previously discussed paradoxical portrayal of Native Americans as being both the “good Indian” and the “bad Indian”.
It could be argued that this is true to life, in that there are good and bad people in all cultures, However, the “good Indian” – Hawkeye played by Daniel Day-Lewis, is only half-Native, and possesses qualities of belonging with nature, noble, brave, and sensitive. The “bad Indian” – Magua played by
Wes Studi, is shown as savage, brutal, and barbaric.
According to Edgerton, when looking at good and bad character types and traits, there was a composite that was deeply conflicted and contradictory that is often common with racial and ethnic stereotyping.
Tan, Fujioka, and Lucht (1997) attempted to ascertain if stereotypes towards Native Americans were effected by television portrayals, along with personal contact. They sampled 191 Euro-American students at two northwestern universities located within 30 miles of a Native reservation. The authors hypothesized that the more contact subjects had with Native Americans, the less likely they were to have negative attitudes about them. This contact could either be personal or vicarious (television). In addition, they hypothesized that positive information would lead to positive attitudes and negative information would lead to negative attitudes (Tan at al. 1997).
The dependent measure used in the study was a survey dealing with racial images. The scale asked respondents to rate whether Native Americans
were closer to one of two polar adjectives on a 7-point scale. Items included were, wealth, work ethic, intelligence, dependency, patriotism, crime, trust, drugs, family ties, tolerance of other races, and alcohol use.
Tan et al. (1997) concluded that frequency of contact consistently predicted stereotyping of Native Americans. In particular, frequent personal contact lead to positive stereotypes. These data offer limited support concerning vicarious contact. Specifically, it was shown that positive TV attributes led to positive attitudes and negative TV attributes led to negative attitudes, but the effects were weak and each only predicted one stereotyping factor out of four. The authors suggest the scarcity of television portrayals about Native Americans, reported by the subject’s recent recall, may have diluted the possible effects (Tan at al. 1997).
Trimble (1988) examined the hypothesis that stereotypes of Native Americans appear to be changing with the times. A series of studies were conducted in 1970, 1973, and 1976 to see if differences in stereotypes of Natives American traits existed across a sevenyear time span. Both Native Americans and non-Natives listed as many words as they could to describe Native Americans.
From these lists, a 38 word list was compiled and a separate group of subjects were administered the 38 word list of traits. From this list, subjects were asked to choose 15 words from the list and rank them from 1-most typical to 15-least typical. The 1970 study found that non-Natives rated words differently than the Natives and saw Native Americans in a stereotypical fashion.
Traits non-Natives endorsed were distrustful, drunkards, ignorant, lazy, proud, and suspicious. Native Americans saw themselves as being defeated, mistreated, proud, drunkards, and quiet. The most commonly picked traits from the 1970 study were compiled into a 15-word list. In 1973, the 15-word
list from 1970 was used, and subjects were asked to add more traits if they wanted. Another group of subjects were then asked to rank the 15 traits.
This time non-Natives tended to view Native Americans as defeated, drunkards, ignored, mistreated, and poor. Native Americans endorsed themselves as being ignored, mistreated, faithful, and proud.
The same procedure was done in 1976, and non-Natives saw Native Americans as being mistreated, militant, and stubborn. Native Americans also saw themselves as being militant, but also as ignored, and faithful. Words that continued to be on the list at all three points in time were artistic, defeated, drunkards, lazy, mistreated, and shy. Although the results of the three studies suggest stereotypes can change with the passage of time, certain stereotypes have remained and continue to remain.
Additional research investigating stereotypes and attitudes towards Native Americans has produced mixed findings. For example, Hansen and Rouse (1987) also conducted a study examining Native American stereotyping. The study included 226 college students enrolled in sociology and anthropology courses at a large southwestern university. Seventyfive percent were European American, 9% African American, 7% Hispanic, and 1.3% Native American.
The study consisted of three sections. In the first section, subjects were presented with a list of 10 positive/negative pairs of adjectives asking them to choose which were characteristic of Native Americans. Subjects were given the option of saying Native Americans were not characterized by the pair and therefore neutral.
Overall, 50% of the subjects characterized Native Americans with the positive term, 24% characterized them with the negative term, and 26% chose the neutral option.
The second part of the study consisted of background information and questions pertaining to exposure to Native Americans, with the final section consisting of a 40-item opinion and knowledge survey about Native Americans. Results showed that concepts conceived as traditional cultural stereotypes received only mixed support such as; simple, primitive, traditional, warlike, hunters, and “as the past.” More subjects saw Native Americans as part of the past and saw them as more traditional.
When examining personal stereotypes, the majority of subjects did not view Native Americans as negative, but saw them as strong, hardworking,
and patriotic. Subjects also tended to reject homogenous lumping of Native Americans in favor of a more heterogeneous perception. However, subjects believed that Native Americans should be bicultural, and received most of their information about Native Americans from television, movies, and books.
Ancis et al. (1996) examined college student’s attitudes towards Native Americans in various social and educational situations and found an overall positive attitude towards Native Americans except for the case of a Native person receiving free health care. The authors suggest that the overall positive attitudes may be indicative of the increased attention recently given to the historical and current conditions of Native Americans (Ancis et al.,1996).
Sandefur and Lam (1985) randomly sampled residents of Oklahoma City in an attempt to assess their stereotypes of African Americans and Native Americans. Using a Likert scale format, subjects read five statements about Native Americans and five statements about African Americans and completed a social distance measure for each group.
Results from this study indicated Euro-Americans in Oklahoma City perceived more social distance between themselves and African Americans than themselves and Native Americans, and stereotypes of African Americans were more negative than stereotypes of Native Americans.
Bennett and Simons (1991) studied attitudes towards Native Americans in the Upper Midwest, where negative perceptions existed. The authors cite these above studies and suggest these findings are inconsistent with their findings because of the diverse methodologies used in each study. Moreover, comparisons with studies of stereotypes and attitudes of other ethnic groups are therefore difficult.
In order to address this issue,Bennett and Simons (1991) used a well-established stereotype measuring methodology conducted on three generations of Princeton University students (e.g. Katz & Braly, 1933; Gilbert, 1951; Karlin, Coffman, & Walters, 1969). This stereotype measurement consists of an adjective checklist in which subjects rate how descriptive an adjective is for both European Americans and some other group.
Bennett and Simons (1991) administered this checklist to college students who had a permanent address that was located within the boundaries of a reservation. It was hypothesized that living on a reservation would have given subjects a more real-life impression of Native American people than what is seen in the media, thus, obtaining a more valid measure of stereotypes and prejudice that exists through actual intergroup interaction.
They found, using the adjective checklist methodology that a distinct, negative stereotype of Native Americans existed. In addition, this negative stereotype was comparable to those held towards African Americans in the late 1960’s (Bennett & Simons, 1991).
One possible explanation for this discrepancy in findings of attitudes towards Native Americans could have to do with the nature of the studies. For example, social psychological theories would suggest that ethnocentrism is more likely to occur in the Bennett and Simons (1991) study than in the other studies.
For non-Natives living on a reservation, ethnic biases are more salient based on a cultural perspective. The conflict that occurs over real and tangible resources has progressed for generations in and around Native American reservations.
Attitudes held by participants in the studies by Ancis et al., (1996) and Hanson and Rouse (1987) may have been based on images presented through media in which the actual participants have not had real contact with Native people. In other words,there was no real conflict or history of personal conflict between participants in the studies and Native Americans, therefore any ethnic biases were not salient.
In the recent decades, blockbuster Hollywood productions such as, Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, and Geronimo, have presented, for the most part, a romanticized account of Native American people and their struggles. However, in areas where Native people constitute the largest minority group, conflict over real life issues continues to exist, maintaining stereotypes and prejudice.
Bill To Grant Federal Recognition Of Virginia Indian Tribes Introduced
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner along with U.S. Congressmen Rob Wittman (R-01), Bobby Scott (D-03), Gerry Connolly (D-11), and Don Beyer (D-08) reintroduced legislation to grant federal recognition to six Virginia Indian tribes. The bill, the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2015, was introduced by Kaine and Wittman in the Senate and House, respectively.
The bipartisan delegation introduced an earlier version of the bill in the 113th Congress, which was passed out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in April 2014.
The legislation would grant federal recognition to the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond tribes.
These tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia but have faced barriers preventing them from receiving federal recognition because of gaps in official records. Specifically, the Virginia tribes lack formal treaties with the U.S. Government because they made peace with England well before the establishment of the United States. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 also led to a “paper genocide,” which destroyed birth records, marriage certificates, and land titles of Virginia’s tribes.
“The Virginia Indian tribes have played an integral role in our Commonwealth’s and our country’s history, and it is a grave injustice that the federal government has failed to grant them federal recognition because of unique circumstances out of the tribes’ control,” said Senator Kaine.
“I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan bill to grant the Virginia tribes the long overdue recognition they have earned, and I will continue working tirelessly with my colleagues until the federal government rights this wrong.”
“The history of these tribes is intertwined with the birth of our nation, and their federal recognition status is long overdue,” said Congressman Wittman. “I’m proud to work with the Virginia tribes to ensure that they are granted the recognition that they have been denied for far too long.”
Federal recognition would grant Virginia’s tribes legal standing and status in relationships with the U.S. government. This status would enable the tribes to pursue repatriation of historical and cultural artifacts, comment on federal agency actions that could affect their future, and gain access to a number of federal programs that serve the other 566 federally recognized tribes.
“I have been supportive of federal recognition of these Native American tribes since I had the honor of serving as Governor,” Senator Warner said. “Their contribution to Virginia and America’s history is clear, and I look forward to continuing to work for Senate passage of this federal recognition.”
“Despite their critical role in our nation’s history, Virginia’s tribes are still waiting for federal recognition,” said Congressman Scott. “I commend my colleagues in the Virginia congressional delegation for introducing this legislation and I look forward to working with them to ensure the rightful status of Virginia’s tribes.”
“We should do all that is within our reach to address the injustices of history in a way that has a positive and appreciable impact on Native American tribes. Granting Federal recognition of Virginia tribes is one way in which we can honor the role native Americans played in the history of our Commonwealth,” Congressman Connolly said.
“It is a privilege to right this wrong and I am pleased to join my colleagues in this bipartisan effort to correct a long-standing discrimination.”
“Virginia’s tribes are a critical thread of our cultural cloth who have been denied proper recognition for far too long,” said Congressman Beyer. “I’m pleased to support the bill to grant these tribes the federal recognition to which they’re entitled.”
“We are asking Congress to help us make history for the Indian people of Virginia, a history that honors our ancestors who were there at the beginning of this great country,” said Chief Steve Adkins of the Chickahominy tribe.
A full fact sheet on the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2015 can be found here.
Pamunkey Tribe receives $50,000 in HUD funding for new housing
The Pamunkey Indian Nation will receive $50,282 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the development and management of affordable housing, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine and U.S. Representative Rob Wittman announced today . Earlier this month, the Pamunkey’s federal recognition by the Bureau of Indian Affairs became effective, which gives the tribe eligibility and access to federal benefits such as housing, education and health care.
“We’re very pleased that the Pamunkey tribe, whose federal recognition was long overdue, will receive grants to help expand affordable housing and create a safer community through crime prevention and safety programs,” said Warner, Kaine and Wittman.
“This progress is encouraging, and we will continue to work together in Congress to get federal recognition of six other Virginia tribes so that the Commonwealth’s Native American communities receive the resources and support they are entitled to.”
Today’s funding was made available by the Office of Native American Programs’ (ONAP) Indian Housing Grant Block Program, which provides grants, loan guarantees and technical assistance to Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages for the development and operation of affordable housing.
Warner, Kaine and Wittman have introduced the bipartisan Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act, legislation that would grant federal recognition of six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan and the Nansemond.
While these tribes have received official recognition from the Commonwealth of Virginia, they have yet to receive federal recognition. The bill cleared its first procedural hurdle in March 2015 with passage out of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
Could Geronimo be my great-great uncle?
My name is Kaela, I am 26 years old. My father (Eddie Brafford) told me I was Apache. He told me that Geronimo was my great-great uncle. I have never been to a reservation and I am not sure what part of Apache I accend from. I have always been interested in learning about my heritage and I would love to visit a reservation that I belong to. How do I find my tribe and get permission to see my people?
Geronimo was a Bedonkohe Apache, which is a band of the Chiricahua Apache. His parents were Tablishim Goyaale (The Gray One) and Juana. According to Wikipedia, he had three brothers and four sisters. One sister was named Ishton or Ish-key. She married Juh and they had one son named Asa Daklugie. Asa had at least three children. I don’t know their names, but here is a picture of them.
Apache Kinship Terminology
The Apache use the same kindred terminology for cousins and siblings, mothers and mother’s sisters, grandparent and grandchild, father and father’s brothers, aunt or uncle and neices or nephews, etc, so relationships can get very confusing when doing genealogical research. You have to know the context of the sentence in which they are spoken to determine which relationship they mean.
Further, the Apache tribes have two distinctly different kinship term systems: a Chiricahua type and a Jicarilla type which have differences. Also, terms used depend on who is talking, and who they are talking to.
The Chiricahua-type system is used by the Chiricahua, Mescalero, and Western Apache. The Western Apache system differs slightly from the other two systems.
The Jicarilla type is used by the Jicarilla, Navajo, Lipan Apache, and Plains Apache. The Lipan and Plains Apache systems are very similar.
Chiricahua Kinship Terms
The Chiricahua language has four different words for grandparent: -chú “maternal grandmother”, -tsúyé “maternal grandfather”, -chʼiné “paternal grandmother”, -nálé “paternal grandfather”. Additionally, a grandparent’s siblings are identified by the same word; thus, one’s maternal grandmother, one’s maternal grandmother’s sisters, and one’s maternal grandmother’s brothers are all called -chú. Furthermore, the grandparent terms are reciprocal, meaning a grandparent will use the same term to refer to their grandchild in that relationship. For example, a person’s maternal grandmother will be called -chú and that maternal grandmother will also call that person -chú as well (i.e. -chú can mean the child of either your own daughter or your sibling’s daughter.)
Chiricahua cousins are not distinguished from siblings through kinship terms. Thus, the same word will refer to either a sibling or a cousin. There are no separate terms for a parallel-cousin (a cousin from a parent’s same-sex sibling) and a cross-cousin (a parent’s opposite-sex sibling). Additionally, the terms are used according to the sex of the speaker (unlike the English terms brother and sister): -kʼis “same-sex sibling or same-sex cousin”, -´-ląh “opposite-sex sibling or opposite-sex cousin”. This means if one is a male, then one’s brother is called -kʼis and one’s sister is called -´-ląh. If one is a female, then one’s brother is called -´-ląh and one’s sister is called -kʼis.
Two different words are used for each parent according to sex: -mááʼ “mother”, -taa “father”. Likewise, there are two words for a parent’s child according to sex: -yáchʼeʼ “daughter”, -gheʼ “son”.
A parent’s siblings are classified together regardless of sex: -ghúyé “maternal aunt or uncle (mother’s brother or sister)”, -deedééʼ “paternal aunt or uncle (father’s brother or sister)”. These two terms are reciprocal like the grandparent/grandchild terms. Thus, -ghúyé also refers to one’s opposite-sex sibling’s son or daughter (that is, a person will call their maternal aunt -ghúyé and that aunt will call them -ghúyé in return).
Jicarilla Kinship Terms
Unlike the Chiricahua system, the Jicarilla have only two terms for grandparents according to sex: -chóó “grandmother”, -tsóyéé “grandfather”. They do not have separate terms for maternal or paternal grandparents. The terms are also used for a grandparent’s siblings according to sex. Thus, -chóó refers to one’s grandmother or one’s great-aunt (either maternal or paternal); -tsóyéé refers to one’s grandfather or one’s great-uncle. These terms are not reciprocal. There is a single word for grandchild (regardless of sex): -tsóyí̱í̱.
There are two terms for each parent. These terms also refer to that parent’s same-sex sibling: -ʼnííh “mother or maternal aunt (mother’s sister)”, -kaʼéé “father or paternal uncle (father’s brother)”. Additionally, there are two terms for a parent’s opposite-sex sibling depending on sex: -daʼá̱á̱ “maternal uncle (mother’s brother)”, -béjéé “paternal aunt (father’s sister).
Two terms are used for same-sex and opposite-sex siblings. These terms are also used for parallel-cousins: -kʼisé “same-sex sibling or same-sex parallel cousin (i.e. same-sex father’s brother’s child or mother’s sister’s child)”, -´-láh “opposite-sex sibling or opposite parallel cousin (i.e. opposite-sex father’s brother’s child or mother’s sister’s child)”. These two terms can also be used for cross-cousins.
There are also three sibling terms based on the age relative to the speaker: -ndádéé “older sister”, -´-naʼá̱á̱ “older brother”, -shdá̱zha “younger sibling (i.e. younger sister or brother)”. Additionally, there are separate words for cross-cousins: -zeedń “cross-cousin (either same-sex or opposite-sex of speaker)”, -iłnaaʼaash “male cross-cousin” (only used by male speakers).
A parent’s child is classified with their same-sex sibling’s or same-sex cousin’s child: -zhácheʼe “daughter, same-sex sibling’s daughter, same-sex cousin’s daughter”, -gheʼ “son, same-sex sibling’s son, same-sex cousin’s son”. There are different words for an opposite-sex sibling’s child: -daʼá̱á̱ “opposite-sex sibling’s daughter”, -daʼ “opposite-sex sibling’s son.”
As you can see from the above, when perusing old records, relationships can get very confusing, very quickly.
Indian Reservations Associated with Geronimo
Geronimo was associated with several Indian Reservations during his lifetime. From 1850 to 1886 Geronimo joined his Bedonkohe band with members of three other Chiricahua Apache bands: the Chihenne, the Chokonen and the Nednhi.
During those years Geronimo “surrendered” several times to return to live on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona and the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico, but something would happen that alarmed him or he felt was unfair, and he would then “break out” again and return to the nomadic life.
During these periods Geronimo would often base himself in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains in what is now the country of Mexico.
You can find a series of articles written in Geronimo’s own words that detail the important events in his life in the Famous Apache People section of our website.
In 1886, Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson Miles at Skeleton Canyon after an 11 year pursuit. When he surrendered, his band had been reduced to only 27 people. During the final pursuit of Geronimo’s band, over 5,000 soldiers and 500 indian scouts had been employed in the chase. He surrendered because General Miles told him he would be returned to his homeland after a brief exile in Florida, but he never saw his homeland again.
Instead, Geronimo and others, including the Apache scouts who had helped the army track him down, were sent as prisoners to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas. The Army held them there for about six weeks before they were transported by rail in cattle cars to Fort Pickens as prisoners of war, in Pensacola, Florida, while his family was sent to Fort Marion, also in Florida. While at Fort Pickens, Geronimo married a new wife named She-gha, but she died the following year.
While at Fort Pickens, he became something of a tourist attraction, and thousands of tourists traveled to the fort to meet him. The constant stream of visitors caused problems for the fort, which was not equipped to deal with them, so in 1888, he was moved to the Mt. Vernon Barracks, near Mobile, Alabama, where he remained until 1894. He was finally reunited with his family in Alabama after an 8 year separation, shortly before they were moved to Oklahoma.
In 1894 he was again moved, this time to the Fort Sill Apache Reservation, in Oklahoma, where he lived the remainder of his life. He died of pneumonia at Ft. Sill in 1909, and is buried in the Fort Sill Apache Indian Prisoner of War Cemetery, along with his daughter Eva, and one of his wives named Zi-Yeh on either side of him. Located a short distance away is another gravestone, engraved “Francisco, wife of Geronimo.”
During his lifetime, Geronimo had 10 or 11 wives, depending on the source you believe, but not all at the same time. Some say two of the wives were possibly the same person who went by different names at different times of her life. The most he had at one time was three wives, but usually he had two, and at the end of his life, he divorced one of his last two wives because the whites said he could only have one wife.
Although Geronimo had at least eight children, and some say as many as 11, more than half of them died young before they had children of their own. It is not known whether he had children or not with some of the wives, or what happened to some of his children. Things are further confused because of the way Apache kinship terminology uses the same words for multiple relationships.
One of Geronimo’s wives was the niece of another famous Apache warrior, Cochise.
His own family was small, but like all Apaches, Geronimo counted all his relatives as his “brothers.” Chief Juh of the Nedhai band in Sonora was a true brother-in-law, as was Chief Nana of the Warm Springs band. When he later married a niece of Cochise, Geronimo acquired not only the greatest Apache leader in history as his uncle, but also Chief Mangas Coloradas of the Mimbreno band as another uncle. His closest “brothers” were Naiche, Victorio, Loco, and Chihauhau, all famous war chiefs in their time.
There are a lot of people who claim to be related to him or who have family stories saying they are related, but can’t prove it. As far as I know, there are only a few verified living direct descendants today. One is a great-grandson named Harlyn Geronimo, who lives in Mescalero, New Mexico. I don’t know him personally.
Ihtedda and Geromino had a child, Lenna, during his fight with the Mexicans and Americans. Ihtedda was a Mescalero. She was held captive during the Prisoner of War days in Florida with Geronimo, but was allowed to divorce Geronimo because he had too many wives for the white men’s rules. She returned to Mescalero with their daughter, Lenna in 1889, where she subsequently married Old Scout, also known as Cross Eyes, soon after arriving on the Mescalero Reservation. Ihtedda then assumed the name, Kate or Katie Crosseyes.
A son was born soon after she arrived back in Mescalero. Since she was already pregnant when she returned to Mescalero, Geronimo is assumed to be his blood father. However, since she married Cross Eyes before the baby was born, he was given the name Robert Cross Eyes. He changed his surname later to Geronimo.
Geronimo’s daughter Lenna married Juan Via, a Lipan Apache, and had three children, Annie Via, Jaunito Via and Percy Via. They would be Geronimo’s grandchildren.
Harlyn Geronimo is the son of Jaunito Via. According to this lineage, he is the Great-Grandson of Geronimo. He later changed his surname from Via to Geronimo.
Harlyn is a Mescalero and Chiricahua Apache who belongs to the Eastern Chiricahua Apaches band known as Shá’i’ánde whose homelands are the Gila wilderness. The book “In Geronimo’s Footsteps: A Journey Beyond Legend” records the journey Harlyn Geronimo and co-author Corine Sombrun took to retrace the steps of Geronimo’s life. The two made a pilgrimage following the Gila River to Geronimo’s birthplace and recounted the stories of Geronimo’s life steeped with family history and Apache lore.
In 1918, President George H. W. Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, along with others, supposedly decimated Geronimo’s tomb and stole his skull and some of his leg bones and took them back to Yale University as a memento for the Skull and Bones Society, one of the many secret Yale societies.
Though the Skull and Bones Society denies these facts, a letter by Winter Mead, member of the secret society (dated June 7, 1918) was discovered in the archives of the Yale University Library, which said in part, “The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club & the Knight Haffner, is now safe inside the Tomb together with his well worn femurs, bit & saddle horn…”
Haryln Geronimo has been trying for years to convince the society at Yale to return the remains of his great grandfather for proper burial. He has appeared on many news shows, and in many TV shows about Geronimo and the Apache people.
You can see part of Geronimo’s genealogy tree and other Geronimo family trees on HillGenealogy.com. If anyone reading this has more verified information you can add to this family tree, please email us.
No special permission is required to visit any of the Apache reservations.
To meet relatives that are actually related to Geronimo, you would need to track them down and contact them personally to see if they would like to meet with you.
The only way to truly verify your relationship to Geronimo would be to compile your genealogical family tree, starting with the relatives closest to you and working back to see if you are actually related to Geronimo. When doing genealogy research you always start with the relatives closest to you and work backward, rather than starting with a (potential) famous relative and trying to trace it forward.
Then if you wanted to pursue tribal membership, you would need to track down legal documents such as birth, death and marriage certificates if they exist, or church records of baptisms, or find your Apache ancestors on various tribal Rolls, to verify all this information before you could determine if you really have any Apache people in your family branch.
The Apache tribes may also have a blood quantum requirement (1/4 or 1/8 are common requirements) for enrollment. The exact requirement on blood quantum varies from tribe to tribe. If your Apache ancestor is more than three generations back, or you have Caucasian or another race mixed in your family tree, you may not have enough Apache blood to qualify for tribal enrollment.
Skull and Bones society at Yale University has Geronimo’s skull – Apaches want it back
New lawsuit against Yale Skull and Bones Society regarding Geronimo’s bones
Wives and burial place of Geronimo
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Bedonkohe Fact Sheet