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Racist Stereotypes in Sports to be Discussed at NMAI Thursday


On Thursday, February 7, the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC will host "Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports"—a symposium that promises to prove interesting given the current debate over the name of the city's NFL franchise.

The all-day event will feature some opening remarks by Kevin Gover, director of the NMAI, and three panel discussions: "Mascot Origin Myths," "Case Studies," and "A Community Conversation About the Washington NFL Team Name." For that last chat, sportswriters from the Washington Post and USA Today will join Robert I. Holden, Deputy Director of the National Congress of American Indians, and author and professor Philip J. Deloria, who will moderate.

Overall, the roster of participants is drawn heavily from academia. Suzan Shown Harjo will moderate the "Case Studies" discussion, and one of the panelists is former U.S. Senator Ben Nighthhorse Campbell.

Growing up in Norman, Oklahoma, where the University of Oklahoma is located, Gover experienced the Native-mascot phenomenon early in the form of Little Red. He told the Smithsonian blog that he was puzzled by the character (played by a student in costume). “I couldn’t quite understand why an Indian would get up and dance when the Sooners scored a touchdown.," he said. Gover added that mascot issues are "a much more loaded proposition" than they might seem at first glance, but that "the mood is changing ... and I have no doubt that in a decade or two, these mascots will all be gone.”

The symposium begins at 10:15 and will be webcast at The full schedule and list of participants is as follows:

Welcome 10:15 a.m.

Hon. Kevin Gover, Esq., Director, National Museum of the American Indian

Mascot Origin Myths 10:30 a.m.

Dr. Manley A. Begay, Jr., Moderator. Associate Social Scientist/Senior Lecturer, American Indian Studies Program, The University of Arizona; and Co-Director, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Dr. E. Newton Jackson, Associate Provost and Professor of Sport Management, University of North Florida

Dr. C. Richard King, Co-Editor, Team Spirits, Native Athletes in Sport and Society, and Encyclopedia of Native Americans in Sports; and Professor and Chair, Department of Critical Gender & Race Studies, Washington State University

Dr. Ellen Staurowsky, Professor, Department of Sport Management, Goodwin School of Professional Studies, Drexel University

Ms. Linda M. Waggoner, Author, Fire Light: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist and “Playing Indian, Dreaming Indian: The Trial of William ‘Lone Star’ Dietz” (Montana: The History Magazine, Spring 2013); and lecturer, Multicultural Studies, Sonoma State University

Case Studies 1:30 p.m.

Dr. Suzan Shown Harjo, Moderator. President, The Morning Star Institute; Past Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians; and a Founding Trustee, National Museum of the American Indian

Dr. Lee Hester, Associate Professor and Director of American Indian Studies and Director of the Meredith Indigenous Humanities Center, The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

Ms. Lois J. Risling, Educator and Land Specialist for the Hoopa Valley Tribes; and Retired Director, Center for Indian Community Development, Humboldt State University

N. Bruce Duthu, Esq., Chair and Professor, Native American Studies, Dartmouth College

Delise O’Meally, Esq., Director of Governance and International Affairs, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

Hon. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Council of Chiefs, Northern Cheyenne Tribe; President, Nighthorse Consultants; Trustee, National Museum of the American Indian; Award-winning Artist/Jeweler; U.S. Representative of Colorado (1987-1993); and U.S. Senator of Colorado (1992-2005)

A Community Conversation About the Washington NFL Team Name 3:45 p.m.

Dr. Philip J. Deloria, Moderator. Author, Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places; Professor, History and American Studies, and Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education, College of Literature, Science and the Arts, University of Michigan

Hon. Judith Bartnoff, Esq., Deputy Presiding Judge, Civil Division, District of Columbia Superior Court

Mr. Erik Brady, Sports Reporter, USA Today

Rev. Graylan Hagler, Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, and Immediate Past President, Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice

Mr. Robert I. Holden, Deputy Director, National Congress of American Indians

Mr. Mike Wise, Sports Columnist, The Washington Post