Yale Football Program Cover Illustrates How Many are Still Blind to Racist Images

Image of historic Dartmouth-Yale Football program reprinted for this year's game.
Image of historic Dartmouth-Yale Football program reprinted for this year’s game.

This is a story about racist images of Native Americans in historic art — and how in many cases the dominant culture sees them as quaintly historic but fails to see that they are still painfully racist.

This current story comes out of Yale University. It points out how even our institutions of higher learning can be blind to the racist messages embedded in artwork.

This past Saturday, the Yale-Dartmouth football game marked the 100th anniversary of the rivalry. To commemorate the event, the Yale Athletic Department printed a special program. I can imagine a group of designers thinking it would be fun to run a collage of historic program covers on the front.

Since Dartmouth’s unofficial mascot used to be the Indian, many of the covers featured images of Indians. (Dartmouth was founded to educate Native American youth, according to an article in the Yale News headlined: Football programs criticized for racist imagery, While that mission was abandoned, Dartmouth kept its Indian mascot until 1974.)

Yale’s commemorative program featured eight historic program covers, of which half were “racially insensitive,” according to the Yale News account. (Click on the link above to see the cover.) The cover included “a bulldog chasing the Native American figure up a tree, while another featured a Yale football player lighting the [Indian] figure’s clothing on fire.” Continue reading

Another Indian Mascot Falls in North Dakota; Chowanoke People in North Carolina Reclaim Land and Identity

From Wikimedia Commons
From Wikimedia Commons

The North Dakota University dropped the mascot name of “Fighting Sioux” in 2012, following a long and contentious debate about its offensive nature. Next up are changes to North Dakota  highway signs, which features the silhouette of a Native leader in headdress.

According to a blog called “The First Scout“:

In 1923, Red Tomahawk’s profile was chosen to mark all North Dakota state highways. It is displayed to show all travelers that a friendly Lakota was safely guiding them.

Who is this friendly Lakota, Red Tomahawk? He is best known as one of the Standing Rock police that shot and killed Sitting Bull.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation faced complaints and threats of lawsuits over the signage, according to a recent MPR story. Plans are moving forward to have new signs replace the Indian silhouette with the outline of the state of North Dakota. It will take 10 years to replace all the signs.

The Department of Transportation says the possible legal action had nothing to do with its decision to change the signs. According to the story, “the change was done to pay tribute to the agency’s 100th birthday next year and get in step with other states’ signage.”

Whether or not that is the real reason for the change, the change is a good one.

Continue reading