UNCP football needs unique traditions
By Margaret Damghani
In a society where the vast majority of people get their impression of American Indians from movies, seeing people tomahawk chop who have no other ideas of Native cultures can sting.
Dr. Mary-Ann Jacobs, chair of the American Indian Studies Department says that scalping “was a very bloody type of warfare that Indian people were using in the Colonial period.
“The tomahawk chop just brings us all back to that history. Indian groups all over our nation are so far removed from that history. It’s not that we are denying that history but it’s really not fair to stereotype Indians in that way,” Dr. Jacobs continued.
And that really is the crux of the issue. Stereotyping. Many American Indians would just like to be recognized as a culture rich in other strengths besides warfare. Or maybe represented with something that isn’t a part of bygone history.
“Is that what we celebrate our Native American heritage with?” Dr. Jay Hansford Vest of the American Indian Studies Department asked. “To continue to stereotype Native Americans in today’s world is to stereotype the Native Americans of that world.”
Another piece of this complicated puzzle is that many people in the younger generation don’t necessarily realize that anyone is offended by tomahawk chopping or portrayals of American Indians as mascots.
Becky G. Leviner, of the Native American Resource Center in Old Main, said that people don’t realize that tomahawk chopping is offensive because “it’s become such a mainstream part of football. It’s amusing to them and offensive to us. Basically, it portrays Native people as savages and we’re not.”
It’s time for UNCP to create new traditions.
UNCP is a growing school in a community that fiercely, and rightfully, wants to hold on to its unique identity.
Student organizations and the administration need to work together to come up with fun and original traditions, rather than copy from the Florida State Seminoles and the Atlanta Braves traditions. The cheerleaders need to lead the crowd with something that reflects our mascot, the red-tailed hawk.
Why don’t people use their hands to imitate the beak and swooping motion of a brave hawk? asked Dr. Vest.
The marching band could research songs to play that reflect the school’s heritage as well.
Whatever is come up with should be a reflection of the school and American Indians in a positive light, arrived at through proactive consultation and collaboration from students, faculty and administration.