Talking In The Library

Native American mascots

On Thursday, Sept. 29, the first Fall 2022 Talking in the Library event was held with writing studies professor, Brian Hendrickson and guest speaker, Kevin Blackistone, a professor from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.
Blackistone is also a columnist for the Washington Post, a regular on ESPNs Around the Horn and has been featured on NPR and PBS NewsHour. Blackistone recently co-wrote and produced the documentary film “Imagining the Indian: The Fight Against Native American Mascoting.” He normally writes about cultural issues and their relationship with sports.
The event began with a moment of silence taken for the land acknowledgement from the Indigenous people. The land of Roger Williams University is with the Pokanoket Tribe whose land and waters university community members benefit from today.
Blackistone has been doing land acknowledgements at events for the past 8 years in recognition for Natives. A clip of the documentary was shown to the audience and the Native American stated that “we are not honored” by the mascots. The film presented that there is “scientific evidence that these mascots are harmful to natives.”
Mascots of Native Americans only increase stereotyping and actions of discrimination. This results in lower self-esteem with identity, depression and anxiety. Indigenous people have been taught to be ashamed of their heritage and skin color. “Most of what we know about Indians is wrong,” Blackistone said. “The battle has been asking for the world to see “us” for who we are.”
Blackistone grew up in Washington D.C. and his family had season passes to the Washington Redskins. Blackistone recalled that he “lived and breathed with the team.” The team was part of his “identity” because it represented his hometown. He did not have much thought regarding the name of the team until he covered a Superbowl game in Texas.
At the Superbowl, he wore his Redskins gear while Native Americans were protesting the use of mascots. Since then, he has “cleansed his wardrobe from Native mascoting attire.” Blackistone feels that as a black male living in America that he should have “sensitivity to Native Americans.”
Blackistone also has an understanding for the Native Americans fight for mascots to be removed because in 1965, Blackistone’s father, James, wrote to Edward Bennett Williams, the President of the Redskins to stop displaying confederate imagery at home games and for the “dixie” song to be removed.
Williams responded with “I agree with your suggestion and will see that it is carried out.” However, the relationship between Native American mascots in the sports industry has been complicated by teams offering money to gain the tribe’s support for use of the mascots. Many football teams including the Redskins attempted to do this, but the Redskins were unsuccessful. The team recently changed their name to the Washington Commanders for the 2022 season.
The documentary film’s purpose is to raise awareness against racism towards Native Americans and for audiences to gain a greater understanding of Native history. Filmmakers are currently trying to attract distributors for theatrical and educational packages.
Imaging the Indian has been shown at many film festivals across the country. This past August the film was shown at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. This month, the film will be featured in Toronto, Canada at the ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival. The film recently won an Audience Choice Award at the 2022 Soo Film Festival.