MSA backs Redskins letter

The student government voted to support the American Indian group’s protest of the name.

Haley Hansen

For some University of Minnesota students, the protests set to take place next month at the Minnesota Vikings and Washington Redskins game are about much more than a mascot.

The American Indian Student Cultural Center sent a letter to University President Eric Kaler last week expressing the group’s concerns with the Redskins mascot’s presence on campus, saying it’s offensive to some American Indian students and perpetuates negative stereotypes.

At its Tuesday forum, the Minnesota Student Association approved a position statement in supporting AISCC’s actions.

AISCC plans to protest the Nov. 2 game at TCF Bank Stadium, its letter read, and it’s asking for security to ensure the rally is peaceful.

The University has also voiced concerns about the nickname on campus property, though administrators said they can’t prevent fans from wearing Washington apparel on game day.

The American Indian student group’s letter asks that Washington and other teams with discriminating mascots don’t return to campus.

“Derogatory sport team names, logos, and mascots have a profound negative psychological effect on American Indian peoples, including young American Indian scholars at the University,” the letter read.

While MSA’s position statement passed through Tuesday’s forum, some people at the meeting said the student government group doesn’t have the right to deny freedom of speech on campus and argued that passing the statement may not be in line with what the general student population thinks about the issue.

AISCC President Chelsea Holmes said some students may not understand why the nickname is an issue because they’re unfamiliar with the name’s history as racial slur.

Despite debate at the meeting, MSA communications director Drew Coveyou, who authored the statement, said it’s good more students are engaged with the issue.

Coveyou is a former board member of AISCC.

Other groups have also taken on the issue.

The Council of Graduate Students sent a letter to administrators late last month requesting that the University use game-day profits to benefit its American Indian students.

National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media co-founder and board member Norma Renville said her group also plans to rally when the Washington football team comes to campus, but she added that the issue goes much deeper than just a name.

“What we are really looking at is abolishing the deeper roots of racism that coincide with using mascots and logos,” she said.

While AISCC board members have strong support, they felt it was their
responsibility to address the issue, said Vanessa Goodthunder, the group’s community outreach coordinator.

“Our student group does not represent all American Indian students at the University, but we do represent a strong portion of it,” she said. “We do have some sort of responsibility.”

Though Goodthunder said it’s important for the group to address the issue, she said support from other campus groups is key because it helps educate more students about American Indian culture.

Earlier this month, the University announced a series of educational programs leading up to the game.

“Our hope is that we raise awareness for our community,” Vice President of Equity and Diversity Katrice Albert said at an Oct. 3 press conference.

Goodthunder said AISCC has so far been pleased with the University’s willingness to work with group members. She said the amount of attention the nickname issue has received demonstrates the strong influence American Indians have in creating change.

“Recently, there’s been this huge movement to get rid of this mascot, and it’s been really showing the power of Native American people in America,” she said.