Native American Legislative Update

* Important health bill (S. 1057) to be marked up October 27
* Mascots challenged in three separate ways

Reauthorization of Indian Health Care Improvement Act

The bill to reauthorize the Indian Health Care Improvement Act will be
marked up by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Thursday, October
27. This means the committee will work on the language of provisions of
the bill and add or reject amendments. The reauthorization has been
considered many times in the past and was almost passed during the 108th
Congress. This critical bill to update the health care delivery system
in Indian Country has had bipartisan support and has been relatively
uncontroversial. Reauthorization is a top priority for Native Americans
whose health status is far below that of other U.S. citizens.

The main opponent to the bill as drafted has been the American Dental
Association (ADA) which objects to the dental health aide therapist
program currently operating in Alaska under the auspices of the Indian
Health Service. That oral health program may be expanded to other
Indian health sites in the future. Native Alaskans have long suffered
from a lack of dental care due to the scarcity of professionals and the
remote nature of many villages. ADA argues that paraprofessionals will
perform procedures that should only be performed by dentists. Native
and non-native supporters of the dental aide program have documented its
effectiveness and point out that it parallels Alaska's successful
medical health aide program which has advanced public health goals and
wellness for Native Alaskans. The National Indian Health Board and the
National Congress of American Indians are vigorously opposing amendments
from Sen. Coburn (OK) that back the ADA position.

Mascots in the News


The American Psychological Association (APA) is calling on all schools,
universities, colleges, professional athletic teams and organizations to
discontinue the use of American Indian mascots and nicknames. The APA
bases its stance on a growing body of evidence showing that Indian
mascots negatively affect the social identity and self-esteem of
American Indian students and perpetuate long-held stereotypes and
misleading racial representations of Native Americans among non-natives.
Having a prestigious, non-native organization enter the controversy on
the side of Native Americans, who have opposed the use of mascots for
years, is a significant development.

Many high schools have already changed team names at the request of
tribes. In the past decade, it has become the exception rather than the
rule for a high school to keep the Native name and mascot. Educators
differ from coaches, alumni, and financial backers who are more likely
to want to continue the mascot traditions. Many principals and even
school boards have taken the same position that psychologists are
taking: to honor the wishes of indigenous people.


The APA's declaration comes in the midst of a national debate in sports
columns and newspaper editorials over Indian mascots. The controversy
was spurred by the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA)
post-season ban on the use of college and university mascots, nicknames,
and logos found to be hostile and abusive symbols. Some officials at
universities and colleges with native mascots do not believe nicknames
or half-time performances are offensive or harmful. For decades
university trustees and presidents have argued their institutions are
honoring history and tribes. But the NCAA's announcement created a
larger public spotlight and required administrators, alumni, students
and faculty to actually listen to the opinions and take seriously the
requests of local native nations whose likenesses are portrayed.
Non-native fans at several universities have reacted angrily and in some
cases have mistreated Native students on campus who protested the use of
Indian mascots and disrespectful behavior during games.

Since the NCAA announced its post-season ban, some tribal councils voted
to support the continuation of a local university's mascot. These
tribal decisions have been controversial for anti-mascot advocates. The
NCAA has respected these decisions and removed some college and
university nicknames from its list of abusive symbols. To some advocates
this has seemed as if the NCAA was backing down on its original
decision. Other tribes are requesting universities to stop using them
as nicknames and mascots. Several universities, including the
University of Illinois and the University of North Dakota (UND) are
ignoring the requests of affected tribes and pushing forward with
appeals to the NCAA to remove their institution from the ban. (The NCAA
officially rejected UND's appeal for removal from the post-season ban.)


The recent debate prompted by the NCAA's ban is not the first time the
racist connotations of Indian-based nicknames and mascots forced
institutions or professional franchises to defend themselves. In 1992,
Native Americans filed Harjo et al v Pro-Football, Inc in an attempt to
revoke the trademarks of pro-football's Washington "Redskins" on the
grounds that federal trademark law prohibits racially disparaging
content. In 1999, the Native American plaintiffs won a significant
victory when the patent office's Trademark Tribal and Appeal Board found
the "Redskins" name and trademark "disparaging." In 2003, a lower court
put the case in doubt when a judge found that the Native American
plaintiffs waited too long to object and file suit (the trademarks were
registered in 1967 and the case filed in 1992). The plaintiffs appealed
to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which recently ruled
unanimously--on technical grounds--that the Harjo case was prematurely
dismissed and instructed the lower court to re-examine the claims.

Washington "Redskins" owners claim the nickname and logo are meant to
honor Native Americans and the memory of a former coach. Former Sen.
Ben Nighthorse Campbell (CO), a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe,
believes "a lot of people need help understanding that it's wrong to use
any derogatory name for a sports team."

"Redskin" is considered by most American Indians to be a pejorative term
comparable to the worst slurs used to demean other ethnic-racial groups.
Many religious groups including FCNL have taken public positions that
the term should not be used and that fan behavior in many sports
settings mocks and trivializes Indian culture. The debate has moved from
a consciousness raising struggle to a legislative issue. For example,
California legislators recently rejected legislation to ban the term for
high school teams.

These ongoing controversies over the use of Indian names and sports
mascots should prompt many people to challenge their perceptions of
Native Americans and deepen their knowledge of the actual culture,
symbols, rituals, and dances of First Americans. Examining why
non-natives have used Native Americans as sports-mascots is a good place
to start. This topic leads into the larger subject of anti-defamation
efforts to curtail the denigration of Native peoples in the United


To learn more about IHCIA, go to

To learn more about the APA resolution, go to


Honor the Promises to Native Americans,

Contact Congress and the Administration:

Order FCNL publications and "War is Not the Answer" campaign bumper
stickers and yard signs:

Contribute to FCNL:

Subscribe or update your information to this list: To unsubscribe from this list, please see
the end of this message.

Subscribe to other FCNL legislative, policy, and action alert lists:

Friends Committee on National Legislation
245 Second St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 *
phone: (202)547-6000 * toll-free: (800)630-1330

We seek a world free of war and the threat of war
We seek a society with equity and justice for all
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled
We seek an earth restored.

fcnl-nalu mailing list

No comments: