[Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 37 (Monday, April 11, 1994)]
[Page H]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]

[Congressional Record: April 11, 1994]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]


 Mr. SIMON. Mr. President, no native American journalist has 
made a greater impact on the Nation than Tim Giago, whose newspaper has 
chronicled what is happening in the American Indian community.
  One of the last vestiges of racism in the United States is our use of 
Indian nicknames for athletic teams.
  There is a great deal of subtle and not so subtle racism in the 
United States, but nothing else as blatant as that.
  For that reason, some years ago I took a stand in opposition to the 
American Indians as athletic mascots by the University of Illinois. It 
is not the most popular stand I have ever taken, I can assure you.
  But recently, Tim Giago, had an item in the New York Times explaining 
why we should discontinue this practice.
  I ask to insert his article at the end of my remarks. Let me, at the 
same time, commend our colleague, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, for 
his efforts in this field. I am pleased to cosponsor his legislation 
regarding the use of Redskins for the Washington professional football 
  One of these days, I hope we will mature to the point that we will 
discontinue this offensive practice.
  The article follows:

           Drop the Chop! Indian Nicknames Just Aren't Right

                             (By Tim Giago)

       The radio and television personality Larry King once wrote: 
     ``The best way to measure a team's nickname is to ask 
     yourself: `Would you name it that if it were just starting 
     out?' In other words, would you call a team the Redskins or 
     the Redmen? Hardly. So change it now--only because it's 
       In fact, some teams are changing their nicknames, including 
     two prominent teams making news in this month of basketball 
     frenzy--St. John's (Redmen) and Marquette (Warriors). Both 
     are in the process of changing nicknames, and presumably 
     mascots. Nevertheless, long after March Madness had ended, 
     the nation will still be watching the Indians, the Braves, 
     the Chiefs and the Redskins.
       Is this right?
       Those of us who have ventured into the turbulent waters of 
     questioning the use of American Indians as mascots for 
     America's fun and games have discovered hell hath no fury 
     like that of a fanatic sports fan. When I wrote an article 
     for Newsweek magazine the week of the Super Bowl held in 
     Minneapolis featuring the Washington Redskins, the editor 
     chose the unfortunate headline, ``I hope the Redskins lose.'' 
     The intent of the column was to educate white and black 
     America to the way Indians feel about being used as mascots.

                           not the same thing

       In the aftermath, I received some of the worst hate letters 
     I have ever received. The mildest insult was that I was 
     trying to be politically correct. No! I was trying to be 
     racially correct, and there's a big difference.
       ``It's a tradition'' or ``it's honoring us'' are no longer 
     valid arguments. Comparisons to the use of Steelers, Cowboys 
     or Packers as good reasons to use Indians as mascots insults 
     our intelligence. Steelers, Cowboys and Packers are not an 
     ethnic minority.
       The biggest argument is: What about the Minnesota Vikings 
     or the Irish of Notre Dame? When is the last time you saw a 
     genuine Viking? They are historical references that no longer 
     exist. Indians do. The Irish were named from within by the 
     early Irish priests and bishops. Although Notre Dame is a 
     Catholic university, you do not see students using the Pope 
     as a mascot nor do you see the fans in the stands attempting 
     to imitate the worst characteristics of the Irish.
       ``Redskins'' is a word that should remind every American 
     there was a time in our history when America paid bounties 
     for human beings. There was a going rate for the scalps or 
     hides of Indian men, women and children. These ``redskins'' 
     trophies could be sold to most frontier trading posts. Along 
     with coon skins, beaver skins and bear skins, the selling of 
     ``redskins'' was also profitable.
       On a recent radio talk show, I spoke with a young lady who 
     had been a cheerleader for a team called the ``Indians.'' She 
     said, ``When I put on my feathers and war paint, donned my 
     buckskins and beads, I felt I was honoring Indians.'' I asked 
     her, ``If your team was called the African-Americans and you 
     painted your face black, put on an Afro wig and donned a 
     dashiki and then danced around singing songs and making 
     noises you thought to be African, would you be honoring 
     blacks?'' Her answer was ``No! Of course not! That would be 
     insulting to them.'' End of discussion.
       Go to a Kansas City Chiefs football game or to an Atlanta 
     Braves baseball game and watch the fans instead of the game. 
     You will see everything Indians hold sacred insulted. The 
     tomahawk chops mean ``kill them.'' The smirking faces painted 
     in Dayglo colors tell us that our spiritual application of 
     paint is fair game for sports fans. The turkey feathers 
     protruding from their heads insult another spiritual practice 
     of most Plains Indians. The eagle feather is sacred. It is 
     given to the recipient in a religious ceremony, usually to 
     honor, to thank, or to bless.
       Suppose the New Orleans Saints used real saints as mascots, 
     or used the crucifix to do the ``chop,'' or wore colorful 
     religious attire in the stands? Suppose Kansas City changed 
     its name to the Kansas City Jews, Kansas City Blackskins or 
     Kansas City Latinos? This simply would not happen, you say? 
     Then, why is it all right to use American Indians as mascots 
     and to insult our way of life and our religion in the 
       There are those who realize that Indians are politically 
     and numerically weak, and they try to help. The Portland 
     Oregonian will not allow words considered to be racist, such 
     as Redskin, to be used in the newspaper. The Minneapolis Star 
     Tribune recently dropped the use of all Indian nicknames. A 
     couple of radio stations, including one in Washington, will 
     not use words they consider to be racially insulting on the 
     air. A number of high schools and colleges have dropped 
     mascots that insulted Indians.
       As American Indians find the formats to air their 
     grievances realistically and intelligently, a number of white 
     and black Americans are listening. They are allowing us to 
     present our viewpoint. They are seeing things through our 
       Even when they hear the other tired arguments that Indians 
     have more important things to worry about or that there are 
     some Indians who don't mind, they have come to understand 
     that the vast majority of Indians do take exception to being 
     used as mascots. Two hundred years of tradition does not make 
     using Indians as mascots right.
       How does one measure self-respect and self-esteem? When 
     Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, did it 
     help the black economy or solve all of their problems? No. 
     But it gave blacks a small victory in restoring self-respect 
     and self-esteem.

                          lost to assimilation

       Simply put, Indians are human beings, not mascots.
       The media will always find those Indians who don't mind 
     being mascots. Most of them have been totally assimilated 
     into the mainstream. They have lost their language, culture 
     and traditions. In other words, they have become 
     Americanized. They are in dire need of learning about their 
     traditional values and we are attempting to educate them.
       With more news people lending their voices to continued 
     Indian efforts to be heard, we believe the battle will be 
     won. Perhaps we will never educate the Jack Kent Cookes or 
     the Ted Turners, but we will take the small victories as they 
       As Larry King said, ``. . . only because it's