Cherokee Phoenix poll suggests some nicknames more offensive than others

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
07/27/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The interim helmet logo design for the Washington Football Team, which is jettisoning its “Redskins” nickname after 87 seasons, will include the throwback look of putting player numbers on the sides. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
TAHLEQUAH – With the Washington, D.C., NFL franchise planning to play as the “Washington Football Team” during the 2020 season, Native American mascots and nicknames are back in the news.

The team, having gone by its “Redskins” nickname for 87 seasons, announced July 13 that the name was retired, and a 12- to 18-month process would ensue to select a team moniker. The Cleveland Indians MLB team announced on July 23 that dialogue with interested parties, including tribes, would begin the process of possibly changing the franchise name.

In Oklahoma, with its large population of Native Americans and presence of tribal governments, there are still plenty of schools with nicknames referring to Indigenous people.

Some such schools have large Native enrollments, some don’t. Some, such as Tulsa Union Redskins or Hominy Bucks, might be regarded as more offensive than Sequoyah Indians or Oaks Mission Warriors.

The Cherokee Phoenix recently conducted a non-scientific poll, to which 348 readers responded, concerning the use of Native nicknames by sports teams and schools. The poll suggested general distaste for the most visible and racy nicknames, but some input suggested that some readers applied nuance.

Readers were asked whether they found all Native sports nicknames and mascots offensive, to which a plurality of 39.48 percent said they were. Another 26.51 percent said they found some offensive, but not all, and 34.01 percent were not offended by Native nicknames or mascots.

Other questions asked about which names were derogatory. Of the respondents, 64.16% were offended by “Redskins;” 51.73% found “Indians” offensive. “Savages” garnered the most opposition, with 76.44% deeming the name offensive.

Found less insulting were “Chiefs” or “Chieftains,” with 48.41% disapproving; and “Braves” was offensive to 43.93 percent of respondents. Warriors was deemed derogatory by 33.91%.

The respondents were closely split on whether it was different when a predominantly Native school used an American Indian nickname or mascot, with 51.59% saying there was a distinction, and 48.41 saying there was not.

Readers were also asked whether governments or sporting organizations should be able to pressure or force offending teams or schools to change their mascots or nicknames: 56.32% said yes, and 43.68 percent said no. Asked whether tribes should have such power, 66.18 percent said yes and 33.82 percent said no.

The final question asked respondents whether a professional team or school insisting on keeping a Native name or mascot should donate a percentage of revenue to tribes or Native-centric organizations, to which 55.78 replied yes and 44.22 percent said no.

Of the respondents, 290 were citizens of a federally recognized tribe, and 57 were not. One person did not answer the citizenship question.

Age ranges included one respondent aged 12-17, 18 aged 18-24, 67 aged 25-34, 77 aged 35-44, 74 aged 45-54, 71 aged 55-64, 32 aged 65-74, and 7 aged 75-over.

The top educational levels of respondents included 13 with doctorates; 12 with professional degrees; 48 with master’s degrees; 114 with bachelor’s degrees; 32 with associate’s degrees; 17 with trade, tech or vocational training; 78 with college credit but no degree; 26 with a high school diploma or equivalent; and five with high school credits but no diploma.
About the Author
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. 

He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...
david-rowley@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...

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