Connecticut Academic Performance Test

Sample Writing Assessment

Native Americans as Mascots


About this Assessment

In this integrated assessment you will be thinking about and responding to an important current issue: the use of Native Americans as sports teams mascots. You will read and evaluate three sources and write a letter in which you take a position on the issue.


The Issue

Native Americans as Mascots:

Recently debated by school districts, collegiate athletic associations and professional sports franchises, the debate over the use of Native Americans as mascots has resulted in the replacement of some of these mascots with alternative symbols. Critics of Native American mascots claim that the representations are stereotypical, disrespectful and even degrading. Those who wish to maintain the mascots for their teams claim that the Native American motif glorifies the bravery and endurance of the Native American people.


Your Task:

Imagine that you are writing a letter to your Senator trying to persuade them to vote for or against a national bill banning the use of Native American imagery for mascots of all athletic teams. Before taking a position it is important that you consider a variety of viewpoints. You have been provided with source materials related to this issue. Read these materials and use the information contained in them to chose and support the position you take in your essay. You will have 1 hour to complete this task.


Preparing to Write Your Letter

As you read the source materials, you may highlight important information or write notes on the articles themselves. You have been given two charts to help you consider the various arguments for and against the use of Native American mascots. In addition, a piece of scratch paper has been included for any additional notes our outlining you may wish to do in preparation for writing your essay.


Any notes that you take or information that you place in the charts will not be scored, but they will help you later when you state and support your position in your essay. Only your essay will be scored.


In your letter you should take a clear stand on the issue and support your position with evidence from the readings as well as your own background knowledge. You won't have time to do extensive revising or to get the reactions of others to your letter as if you were really writing to your Senator. So, consider this a first draft or an initial attempt. However, express your thoughts as completely and clearly as possible so readers of your letter will understand your ideas.



How Your Letter Will Evaluated

Your score will be based on how well you:

         take a clear stand on the issue and support your position;

         organize your letter so your Senator will follow your reasoning;

         support your ideas with accurate and relevant information; and

         express your ideas clearly so that readers will understand what you mean.


Arguments FOR the use of Native Americans as Mascots

Arguments for...

















Supporting Evidence or Claims...



Arguments AGAINST the use of Native Americans as Mascots

Arguments against...


















Supporting Evidence or Claims...



Source 1:
Schools defend Indian mascots

Nevada teams sport names from Braves to Warriors, which civil rights panel urges changing

Saturday, April 14, 2001
Copyright Las Vegas Review-Journal

Four Nevada high schools have mascots with Indian names, and several local officials think the names are an honor.

"I think it's a credit to (Indian peoples); that's what I think. I think it's great," said Rich Stevens, football coach and alumnus of the Western High School Warriors.

Clark County School Board member Susan Brager said she and the board would be willing to listen to anyone objecting to Indian mascot names, but said she thought mascot names were an "honor."

"I don't think anything is done in a negative manner," Brager said. "Usually they name things as something they can look up to. I don't think people name things that they want to make fun of."

They made the comments Friday after being told of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights' call for an end to the use of Indian mascots at non-Indian schools, colleges and universities.

Elko High School Indians football coach Bob Milligan agreed that mascots are a source of pride.

"You don't name a mascot as something that's going to be a source of embarrassment or something negative. I don't know any schools that do," Milligan said. "When schools pick things (as mascots), they look for things that are representative of their area, something to do with who they are."

Milligan said he teaches his players about the strength and character of Indian people that go into being a good team player.

"There's lots of other mascots around, anywhere from the (Notre Dame) Fighting Irish to, I guess, the Dallas Cowboys. I don't see those as derogatory by any means."

Dairo Pederson, principal of Owyhee High School on the Duck Valley Indian Reservation near the Idaho border, said his students take pride in the school's Braves mascot and don't seem to mind other schools using Indian mascots.

"Elko High School also has an Indian head mascot, and I have never heard anything negative on this reservation at all toward the Elko Indians or them using the Indian head mascot," Pederson said.

He said students at Owyhee High would "go through the roof" if anyone tried to take away the Braves mascot.

Source 2:
Charlotte Observer

Indian mascot, moniker at issue
Wed, Jun. 05, 2002

Raleigh Bureau

Worried about Native American dropout rates, N.C. education leaders want schools across the state to reconsider mascots and nicknames related to American Indians.

More than 60 public N.C. schools, including 20 high schools, use Indian symbols. The list includes West Mecklenburg High, home of the Indians, and West Iredell and East Gaston high schools, both home to the Warriors. More than 40 public schools in South Carolina, including 14 high schools, have similar nicknames.

The N.C. Board of Education will consider a resolution today and Thursday asking schools to study the issue and consider a shift. They are not demanding that schools drop their logos and mascots.

Advocates see eliminating Native American nicknames as a small but important step toward cutting Indian dropout rates and ensuring a quality education for Native American students. In 2000-01, the almost 8 percent dropout rate for Native American students was almost twice that of all N.C. schoolchildren.

Native Americans make up about 1 percent of the state's 8 million residents, and North Carolina has the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi River.

"It's just common sense that those mascots and symbols have an effect on children," said Louise Maynor, a Lumbee Indian and member of the Advisory Council on Indian Education, a group of Native American parents and educators that recommended the move.

"How long would you want to stay in a place where you're being mocked and laughed at?"

Changing names is costly and controversial, both in the Carolinas and nationwide. But Native American groups say the use of Indian terms and symbols at sports events amount to massive displays of group bigotry.

The Cleveland Indians' smiling Chief Wahoo and the Atlanta Braves' Tomahawk Chop, for example, blur the realities of modern Indian life, said Maynor and others. Such images also reinforce the notion that Native Americans are savage and violent.

"Even when they mean well, there are these stereotypes that these names promote," said Frances Stewart-Lowry, another member of the Advisory Council on Indian Education. Stewart-Lowry, of Lexington, is a member of the Indians of Person County, one of seven tribes recognized by the state. "We don't see other groups, other living, modern, real-life groups, singled out this way."

Since the late 1960s, more than 600 schools and professional teams nationwide have dropped Indian names or mascots. More than 100 colleges and junior colleges -- including UNC Pembroke, Chowan College and Catawba College in North Carolina -- and 1,500 high schools still use them, according to a recent Sports Illustrated survey.

In late May, California lawmakers refused to become the first state to ban American Indian names and mascots in public schools. Recently, a group of University of Northern Colorado students dubbed their intramural basketball team the "Fightin' Whites," complete with a smiling, straight-from-the-1950s Caucasian man for their logo, to protest the use of Native American images in local schools.

Three years ago, the U.S. Justice Department investigated Buncombe County's Erwin High School after complaints from Native American families. Erwin High School's front lawn featured a 30-foot-tall Indian complete with tomahawk. At pep rallies and games, a headdress-wearing mascot roused the crowd, and fans greeted players with chants of "Scalp 'em!"

Following the federal investigation into possible civil-rights violations, Erwin High leaders agreed to tone down the displays and stop calling female students "Squaws." In the Algonquin language, squaw is a pejorative term for female genitalia.

At West Mecklenburg, girls' and boys' teams are the Indians. Principal Gary Evans said he probably would bring someone in from outside to study the use of Native American symbols if the state resolution passes.

Evans sees nothing wrong with the Indians nickname, which dates to West Mecklenburg's opening in 1951 and reflects the area's history.

"This building is standing on what used to be Indian land. Are the people doing this saying anytime you have a mascot you're dishonoring people?" Evans said. "What about schools that use other terms, like the Patriots? Are they dishonoring patriots?"

Native American activists and educators worry that there's a fine line between honoring a culture and showing condescension. The Web site for South Stokes High School explains that the school's choice of "Mighty Sauras" came from the Saura Tribe, which settled in the region north of Winston-Salem before 1700. Sauras, the school Web site notes, "were clean and stood very tall and straight."

Among N.C. high schools, 13 schools call themselves the Warriors. Three call themselves Indians and two -- Roanoke High School in Martin County and Manteo High School in Dare County -- refer to their teams as the Redskins.

Manteo football uniforms carry a portrait of Chief Manteo, who aided English colonists in the 1580s. School administrators say students are respectful in their use of Manteo's image and memory.

"It's the history here. When you go to see the `Lost Colony,' you're going to see Chief Manteo, and you're going to hear them talk about redskins and palefaces," said Manteo Principal Kerry Tillery. "We wouldn't allow anything belittling, something like that chop-chop thing or war paint or feathers. ... I've never even seen a feather here, unless it was a seagull molting."

S.C. leaders haven't considered anything similar to the N.C. resolution, but several school systems have debated a change. Last fall, the Georgetown County School District dropped the Indian symbol that had been used by the Waccamaw High School Warriors. The school kept its nickname. -- STAFF WRITER ADAM BELL CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.


Source 3:
Copyright 2003 Indian Country Today
March 5, 2003

California Lawmaker Brings Back Anti-Mascot Bill
By James May

SACRAMENTO - Undaunted by the defeat in 2002 of a bill that aimed to ban the use of American Indian mascots from California schools, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles has reintroduced the bill for this legislative round.

The bill contains some modifications from last year's version that Goldberg hopes will attract enough votes in the California Assembly. Last year a group of conservative Republicans and Democrats helped derail the bill which lost by a 35 to 29 margin.

If the bill is successful, California will become the first state to outright ban the use of American Indians as mascots, though individual school districts, such as the Los Angeles Unified have already banned the use of American Indian mascots. New York and Minnesota have adopted policies that discourage Indian mascots without making it legally binding.

Recent press reports place part of the blame for last year's defeat on the lack of tribal interest behind the bill. Curtis Notsinneh, a member of the Jicarilla Apache tribe who works in Goldberg's office, says this time around his boss made sure to garner stronger tribal support.

One of the organizations that Goldberg got on board this time is the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA) a tribal gaming lobbying group which boasts 50 members.

Though CNIGA supported the last bill, this time they had their members vote on the issue in January and got unanimous consent from all member tribes to support the bill.

"We are usually busy dealing with gaming issues and most of our time and energy goes to that," says Jake Coin, executive director of CNIGA. "However, we decided that we should at least include a letter of support and make sure that our wishes on this issue are known."

Another difference between this and last year's bills is a broader definition of Indian lands, which are exempted under the provisions of the proposed law. While last year's bill allowed an exemption to schools on the reservation, this new version casts a wider net.

The new bill brings the definition of Indian country, for the purposes of exemption, in line with the federal code's definition. For example, off-reservation schools that are tribally affiliated or who are under some kind of more broadly defined Indian control are exempted from the new bill.

"Look, if schools have a historical connection to Indian culture or some kind of thing that truly honors Indian culture, then that's fine," says Goldberg. "However, people need to realize that these mascots actually demean Indian cultures."

Goldberg, a veteran of civil rights struggles, says that she felt the need to reintroduce the bill because she feels that these symbols are important for American Indian cultural dignity and feels that the mascot issue is therefore related directly to civil rights.

Though the debate over Indian mascots has been ongoing since the late 1960s and had some notable early successes, such as when Stanford University went from Indian to Cardinal red in the early 1970s the issue has taken on increased intensity within the previous two years.

Though he was not able to be reached by press time, Assemblyman Jay La Suer, R- La Mesa, an opponent of the bill was quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune as saying that the bill is "political correctness taken 18 steps too far."

La Suer also proudly boasted that he had once been a San Diego State University "Aztec," the school's mascot.

San Diego State University became a flash point in the debate last year when demonstrations were held on campus to protest the school's Monty Montezuma mascot and Aztec nickname. The school offered a compromise by dropping the mascot who paraded at sporting events geared with a spear and a loincloth and keeping the Aztec nickname.

Though the bill has solid tribal support, there are a wide variety of opinions in Indian country. One source who works for a prominent Indian agency says that some American Indians do not have a problem with some of the nicknames, such as "Indian," but take exception to more racially charged terms such as "Redskins."

However, the source, who asked to not be identified because it might bring undue controversy to his position also says that the Washington Redskins football team features a more dignified representation of the American Indian, whereas the Cleveland Indians baseball team features the cartoonish and grotesque "Chief Wahoo" as their mascot.

The bill is expected to go into committee in the coming weeks.