List of college sports team names and mascots derived from indigenous peoples

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The use of terms and images referring to Native Americans/First Nations as the name or mascot for a sports team is a topic of public controversy in the United States and in Canada, arising as part of the Native American/First Nations civil rights movements. Since the 1960s, there have been a number of protests and other actions by Native Americans and others targeting the more prominent use of such names and images by professional franchises such as the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.[1] However, the greatest change has occurred in the trend by school and college teams that have retired Native American names and mascots at an increasing rate in recent decades.

The documents most often cited to justifying the trend for change are an advisory opinion by the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 2001[2] and a resolution by the American Psychological Association in 2005.[3] Both support the views of Native American organizations and individuals that such mascots maintaining harmful stereotypes that are discriminatory and cause harm by distorting the past and preventing understanding of Native American/First Nations peoples in the present, this view lead to the NCAA adopting a policy to eliminate "hostile and abusive" names and mascots. However some changes began in the 1970s in response to the Native American civil rights movement, lead by the National Congress of American Indians.[4]

Defenders of the current usage often state their intention to honor Native Americans by referring to positive traits, such as fighting spirit and being aggressive, brave, stoic, dedicated, and proud; while opponents see these traits as being based upon stereotypes of Native Americans as savages.[1] Supporters also claim that the issue is not important, being only about sports, and that the opposition is nothing more than "political correctness", which change advocates argue ignores the extensive evidence of harmful effects of stereotypes and bias.[5]


1930 Football ticket stub depicting the former Stanford Indian mascot

Some college teams voluntarily changed their names and mascots.

  • Stanford University had "The Stanford Indian" as its mascot from 1930 to 1972. Today "Stanford Cardinal" honors the university athletic team color, the symbol of the Stanford Band is the "Stanford Tree."[6]
  • The "Saltine Warrior" represented Syracuse University from 1931 until 1978. After a brief attempt to use a Roman warrior, the mascot became Otto the Orange for the school color.
  • Miami University began discussion regarding the propriety of the Redskins name and images in 1972, and changed its team nickname to RedHawks in 1996.[7]
  • Marquette University changed their team name from the Warriors to the Golden Eagles in 1994. The school's president stated:"We live in a different era than when the Warriors nickname was selected in 1954, the perspective of time has shown us that our actions, intended or not, can offend others. We must not knowingly act in a way that others will believe, based on their experience, to be an attack on their dignity as fellow human beings."[8]
  • St. John's University (New York) changed the name of its athletic teams from the Redmen to the Red Storm after the university was pressured by American Indian groups who considered Redmen a slur.[9]
  • In late 2002, The Strategic Planning Committee of Stonehill College determined that the then-current mascot, the chieftain, was disrespectful to American Indians and decided that it would be changed. After discussion, the mascot was changed to the Skyhawk in 2005.[10] Jim Seavey, associate director of athletics stated: "Twelve years ago, the college discarded the logo that depicted the Indian with the headdress and feathers and stuff. We really did not have anything to represent our identity that we were comfortable with. We felt ... that it wasn't appropriate to have a physical representation of a Native American as our mascot," [11]

NCAA policy[edit]

In 2005 the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) distributed a "self evaluation" to 31 colleges for teams to examine the use of potentially offensive imagery with their mascot choice.[12] Subsequently, 19 teams were cited as having potentially "hostile or abusive" names, mascots, or images, that would be banned from displaying them during post-season play, and prohibited from hosting tournaments.[13]

Schools that removed all references to Native American culture or were deemed not to have references to Native American culture as part of their athletics programs:

Schools granted waivers to retain their nicknames after gaining support from those respective tribes.

The NCAA did not cite San Diego State University, San Diego, California as "hostile and abusive" due to the Aztec people having no modern representatives. However the Aztec Warrior mascot, whose performance including human sacrifice, has drawn criticism.[19] A SDSU professor of American Indian Studies states that the mascot teaches the mistaken idea that Aztecs were a local tribe rather than living in Mexico 1,000 miles from San Diego;[20] in April, 2017 the university’s Associated Students council rejected a resolution to retire the mascot introduced by the Native American Student Association.[21]

Current Usage (Non-NCAA)[edit]

Prior usage[edit]

Old Name School City, State Year Changed New Name Notes
Apaches Illinois Valley Community College Oglesby, Illinois 2001 Eagle
Apaches Southwestern College Chula Vista, California 2001 Jaguars Community College
Beothuk Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada 1987 Sea-Hawks The Beothuk aboriginal peoples became extinct in 1829 and the university deemed the use of the Beothuk name to be offensive
Braves Bradley University Peoria, Illinois 2005 While the nickname has never changed, all Native American imagery has been removed. The logo is now a block B and the mascot is a gargoyle.
Braves Chowan University Murfreesboro, North Carolina 2006 Hawks
Braves Husson College Bangor, Maine 2004 Eagles [24]
Braves University of West Georgia Carrollton, Georgia 2006 Wolves
Braves Seneca College Toronto, Ontario 1999-2000 The Sting
Braves Quinnipiac University Hamden, Connecticut 2002 Bobcats
Brown Indians/Squaws St. Bonaventure University Allegany (town), New York 1979 Bonnies
Chief Ouabache Indiana State University Terre Haute, Indiana 1989 N/A The team name was always the Sycamores; Chief Ouabache and "Indian Princess" were the on-field mascots.
Chiefs Oklahoma City University Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Stars
Chiefs Springfield College Springfield, Massachusetts 1995 Pride Change was made voluntarily without protest on either side.[25]
Chiefs University of Massachusetts Lowell, Massachusetts 1991 River Hawks Change occurred with merger of University of Lowell into the UMass system
Chieftains Seattle University Seattle, Washington 2000 Redhawks "H" is NOT capitalized here, unlike the case with Miami's nickname.
Chieftains Stonehill College Easton, Massachusetts Skyhawks
Fighting Illini University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Illinois 2007 Old name was retained as referring to the state[26] Chief Illiniwek has been officially retired, but is widely used by students and fans
Fighting Sioux University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota See Notes Fighting Hawks The "Fighting Sioux" nickname was retired in 2012, but the state passed a law prohibiting the university from adopting a new nickname until January 2015. In November of that year, following two rounds of fan voting, the current nickname of Fighting Hawks was chosen and immediately adopted, for more information, see North Dakota Fighting Sioux controversy.
Hurons Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, Michigan 1991 Eagles The mascot is "Swoop"
Indians Adams State University Alamosa, Colorado Grizzlies
Indians Arkansas State University Jonesboro, Arkansas 2008 Red Wolves
Indians University of Wisconsin-La Crosse La Crosse, Wisconsin 1989 Eagles
Indians University of the Cumberlands Williamsburg, Kentucky 2002 Patriots Originally Cumberland College, name changed 2005
Indians Dartmouth College Hanover, New Hampshire 1970s Big Green Indians was not official, and the current "unofficial" mascot is Keggy the Keg.
Indians Midwestern State University Wichita Falls, Texas 2006 Mustangs
Indians Martin Methodist College Pulaski, Tennessee 2002 Redhawks[27]
Indians McMurry University Abilene, Texas 2006 War Hawks
Indians Minnesota State University, Mankato Mankato, Minnesota 1977 Mavericks
Indians University of Louisiana at Monroe Monroe, Louisiana 2006 Warhawks "Chief Brave Spirit" mascot also retired
Indians Indiana University of Pennsylvania Indiana County, Pennsylvania 2007 Crimson Hawks
Indians Newberry College South Carolina 2008 Wolves
Indians Stanford University Stanford, California 1972 Cardinal The nickname was changed to the current "Cardinal" in 1981, which reflects the school color, a shade of red
Indians Siena College Loudonville, New York 1988 Saints
Indians College of William & Mary Williamsburg, Virginia 1978 Tribe Mascot is the Griffin
Indians Yakima Valley Community College Yakima, Washington 1998 Yaks[27]
Indians and Otahkians Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, Missouri 2004 Redhawks
Maroon Chiefs Morningside College Sioux City, Iowa 1998 Mustangs [27]
Moccasins University of Tennessee Chattanooga, Tennessee 1996 Mocs "Scrappy the Mockingbird" in honor of coach Andy Moore.[27] Prior mascot was Chief Moccanooga.
Mohawks Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts North Adams, Massachusetts 2002 Trailblazers
Old Siwash Knox College Galesburg, Illinois 1994 Prairie Fire Mascot is the Fox
Orangemen and Orangewomen Syracuse University Syracuse, New York 1978 Syracuse Orange Use of the Saltine Warrior, an unofficial Native American mascot, was discontinue in 1978, and briefly replaced by a Roman warrior that was unpopular. Otto the Orange, introduced in 1980, became the official mascot in 1990.
Plainsmen Nebraska Wesleyan University Lincoln, Nebraska Prairie Wolves
Red Raiders Colgate University Hamilton (village), New York 2001 Raiders
Red Raiders Southern Oregon University Ashland, Oregon 1980 Raiders/Red Tailed Hawk[27]
Redmen Carthage College Kenosha, Wisconsin 2005 Red Men/Lady Reds
Redmen University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) Amherst, Massachusetts 1972 Minutemen and Minutewomen According to the University Redmen referred to the color of uniforms worn by the athletics teams
Redmen Northeastern State University Tahlequah, Oklahoma 2006 RiverHawks Founded as the Cherokee National Female Seminary. T-shirts with the old "Redman" mascot continue to be sold.[28]
Redmen St. John's University New York City 1995 Red Storm The school's website indicates that the name did not refer to American Indians, but to the school color, a bright cardinal red. However, some athletics logos used an Indian character as late as the 1980s.
Redmen and Lady Reds Simpson College Indianola, Iowa 1992 The Storm
Redmen and Redwomen University of Rio Grande Rio Grande, Ohio 2008 RedStorm
Redskins Miami University Oxford, Ohio 1997 RedHawks
Redskins Southern Nazarene University Bethany, Oklahoma 1998 Crimson Storm
Savages Dickinson State University Dickinson, North Dakota 1972 Blue Hawks
Savages Eastern Washington University Cheney, Washington 1973 Eagles
Savages Southeastern Oklahoma State University Durant, Oklahoma 2006 Savage Storm
Warriors Hartwick College Oneonta, New York 1994 Hawks
Warriors Marquette University Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1994 Golden Eagles Retired the mascot "Willie Wampum" in 1971[29]
Zias Eastern New Mexico University Portales, New Mexico 2015 Greyhounds The women's teams are reverting to the name used prior to the 1970s, which is the same as the men's teams.[30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Laurel R. Davis (2010). "4. The Problems with Native American Mascots"; in C. Richard King. The Native American Mascot Controversy: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6731-4. 
  2. ^ "Statement of the United States Commission on Civil Rights on the use of Native American images and nicknames as sports symbols". 2001. Retrieved December 10, 2016. 
  3. ^ "Summary of the Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots". American Psychological Association. 2005. 
  4. ^ Hylton, J Gordon (2010-01-01). "BEFORE THE REDSKINS WERE THE REDSKINS: THE USE OF NATIVE AMERICAN TEAM NAMES IN THE FORMATIVE ERA OF AMERICAN SPORTS, 1857–1933". 86. North Dakota law review: 879. 
  5. ^ Barbara E. Munson (2010). "2. Teaching Them Respect Not Racism: Common Themes and Questions About the Use of "Indian" Logos"; in C. Richard King. The Native American Mascot Controversy: A Handbook. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6731-4. 
  6. ^ Luukas Ilves. "Anatomy of a Revolution: A brief history of the Stanford Indian". The Stanford Review. Archived from the original on 2016-12-28. 
  7. ^ "Mascot Story". Miami University. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Trustees announce new nickname selection process". Marquette University. May 11, 2005. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Use of Indians As Mascots To Be Subject Of an Inquiry". The New York Times. July 9, 1998. Retrieved February 8, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Why a Skyhawk?". Stonehill College. Retrieved October 20, 2014. 
  11. ^ Sweeney, Emily (February 27, 2005). "Digging for new name sends Stonehill to Web". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 20, 2013. 
  12. ^ Brutlag Hosick, Michelle (March 14, 2005). "Mascot matter fits into proper-environment discussion". The NCAA News. Retrieved February 5, 2013. 
  13. ^ Brand, Myles (October 24, 2005). "NCAA correctly positioned as a catalyst for social change". National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved January 16, 2013. 
  14. ^ "NCAA says Catawba College can use Indians nickname". May 30, 2006. Retrieved February 1, 2013. 
  15. ^ Doug Lederman (September 6, 2005). "Two More Universities Off NCAA's Mascot List". Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved November 4, 2013. 
  16. ^ Wieberg, Steve (2005-08-12). "Fla. State gets backing". USA Today. 
  17. ^ Associated Press (February 23, 2006). "NCAA: Mississippi College Can Keep Choctaws Nickname". Retrieved November 4, 2013. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (September 3, 2005). "NCAA takes Utah off banned mascots list". ESPN. Retrieved November 4, 2013. 
  19. ^ Walter Mencken (June 12, 2016). "Visiting professor complains about San Diego State mascot's pregame ritual sacrifices: "That's racist murderous."". San Diego Reader. 
  20. ^ Gary Warth. "SDSU professor revives fight to change Aztec mascot". San Diego Union-Tribune. 
  21. ^ Berteaux, Anthony (19 April 2017). "The San Diego State Aztecs mascot debate is over — for now". The San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  22. ^ "About Bacone College". 
  23. ^ Betsy Z. Russell (December 8, 2015). "Tribal leaders say school mascot issue comes down to respect". The Spokesman-Review. 
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ Ron Chimelis (October 14, 2015). "'Redskins' controversy is about obstinacy". 
  26. ^ "Fighting Illini FAQ". University of Illinois Archives. Retrieved June 13, 2016. 
  27. ^ a b c d e "Sport teams that retired Native American mascots, nicknames". Sporting News. October 12, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Sales of 'old' mascot may rankle, but not stopped". Tahlequah Daily Press. September 9, 2016. 
  29. ^ "Willie Wampum". 
  30. ^ Daniel Trujillo (April 24, 2015). "Eastern New Mexico University does away with Zia mascot". KRQE News.