Archive for Monday, November 8, 2004

Indian activists ask Ottawa University to reconsider mascot

November 8, 2004

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— American Indian activists are asking Ottawa University officials to organize an educational teach-in to discuss the school's continued use of the Braves as a mascot.

The northeast Kansas school retired the costumed version of the mascot in 1971 after students complained the tomahawk-wielding figure -- called "Giego" -- presented a derogatory stereotype of Indian culture.

But the private university, which is supported by the American Baptist Church, retained the Braves name. And in 1994 the university reinstated a costumed student mascot, which was sanctioned by the chief of the Ottawa tribe.

University provost Maurice Bryan said Giego hasn't appeared at football games this year "because that's not where he belongs." Bryan declined, however, to define the mascot's current role on campus.

A second costumed student mascot, Gibby the otter, was introduced four years ago. The otter is the sacred animal of the Ottawa nation.

Activists have said it's time for both mascots to be retired.

Joni Tucker-Nisbeth of Hutchinson, coordinator of the American Indian Movement in Kansas, submitted a request Friday for an educational event.

Bryan said the school, which has about 500 students, would study the issue.

If Ottawa University officials decline to help organize the teach-in, Tucker-Nisbeth said she would ask for space on campus to conduct it on her own. She said the event would clarify the reasons American Indian symbols have been appropriated for use by the dominant white culture.

If all else fails, Tucker-Nisbeth plans to conduct the teach-in at a public meeting place, such as the library.

A few other four-year colleges use the Braves nickname, as does Atlanta's Major League Baseball team.

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