National Museum of the American Indian Tackles Native American Mascot Controversy

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian presents “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports,” a symposium and community conversation Thursday, November 1, from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. in the museum’s Rasmuson Theater in Washington, D.C.

“What better place to address this issue than the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall,” said Kevin Gover, Pawnee, director of the museum. “The Smithsonian Institution is the ideal forum to bring people together to ask tough questions.”

The series of panel discussions will feature scholars, commentators, authors and representatives from Indian nations and the NCAA. Panelists will explore the mythology and psychology of stereotypes in sports, the history of ethnic “identity theft” and recent efforts to retire and revive “Native American” sports references at the University of Oklahoma, Stanford University, Dartmouth College and Syracuse University. The symposium advances a movement endorsed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 and addressed last year by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The program will also feature a lively community conversation about the Washington, D.C., professional football organization’s name and logo moderated by Philip J. Deloria, Standing Rock Sioux, author of Playing Indian and Indians in Unexpected Places, and the associate dean of Undergraduate Education at the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Deloria will be joined by Judith Bartnoff, deputy presiding judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court’s Civil Division; Rev. Graylan Hagler of the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ and the former president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice; Robert I. Holden, Choctaw/Chickasaw, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians; Erik Brady, a sports reporter for USA Today; and Mike Wise, a sports columnist at The Washington Post.

Speakers include:

  • Kevin Gover, who will deliver opening remarks
  • Manley A. Begay Jr. (Navajo), moderator, associate social scientist/senior lecturer, American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona, and co-director, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
  • Jerry C. Bread Sr. (Kiowa), outreach coordinator, facilitator and adjunct associate professor, Native American Studies, University of Oklahoma
  • N. Bruce Duthu (United Houma Nation of Louisiana), chair and professor, Native American Studies, Dartmouth College
  • Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne/ Hodulgee Muscogee), moderator. President, Morning Star Institute and past executive director, National Congress of American Indians, and a founding trustee of the National Museum of the American Indian
  • C. Richard King, co-editor, Team Spirits, Native Athletes in Sport and Society, and Encyclopedia of Native Americans in Sports, and professor and chair of the Department of Critical Gender and Race Studies, Washington State University
  • Oren Lyons (Onondaga), Council of Chiefs, Onondaga Nation, and SUNY distinguished service professor and professor emeritus of American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Buffalo
  • Delise O’Meally, director of Governance and International Affairs, NCAA
  • Lois J. Risling (Hoopa/Yurok/Karuk), educator and land specialist for the Hoopa Valley Tribes, and retired director, Center for Indian Community Development, Humboldt State University
  • Ellen Staurowsky, professor, Department of Sports Management, Goodwin School of Professional Studies, Drexel University
  • Linda M. Waggoner, author, Fire Light: The Life of Angel De Cora, Winnebago Artist; and editor, Neither White Men Nor Indians: Affidavits from the Winnebago Mixed-Blood Claim Commissions, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, 1838-1839

For more information, visit the museum’s website at


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National Museum of the American Indian Tackles Native American Mascot Controversy