A UC Berkeley study to be published this month shows that out of more than 1,000 Native Americans surveyed, at least half are offended by the Washington Redskins’ name and Native mascots, according to a UC Berkeley press release.
These results contradict a 2016 Washington Post survey that previously reported nine out of 10 Native Americans were not bothered by the team name. The campus press release added that out of the population that was surveyed, 49% of participants in the study strongly agreed or agreed that the name was offensive.
According to Arianne Eason, co-lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychology, she was interested in looking at this issue to see if there was a way to capture whether Native people supported these names or not and how issues of cultural bias linked to cultural identities.
“We really have to start questioning — why are we really holding onto these mascots and whose voices are we saying are speaking for Native people, when we’re supposedly representing them?” Eason said.
The study looked at the online surveys of more than 1,000 self-identified adult Native Americans from 148 tribes, according to the press release. Eason added that many of the questions paralleled the 2016 Washington Post poll, while others were related to specific behaviors associated with these Native mascots.
Eason said the study looked at three aspects of identity: legal status as a Native American, engagement with tribal cultures and psychological identity. Psychological identity, according to Eason, relates to how the participants’ sense of self was related to their identity as a Native American.
Eason added that the use of Native mascots can lead to decreases in self-esteem and in the future aspirations of those affected by them.
The press release also added that those who were offended by the mascots were more often participants who were very engaged in their tribal cultures.
According to Phenocia Bauerle, director of Native American Student Development at UC Berkeley, this study is important because it points out that other surveys and polls are not using “good methodology.”
“I can tell you as a Native person I feel that mascots are extremely problematic and harmful,” Bauerle said in an email. “The Washington football team’s mascot, and the fact that they are using by definition a racial epithet is disrespectful and furthers the acceptability of racism and appropriation that is rampant in this country.”
Eason added that she hopes the study will begin to shift the narrative that has silenced Native people. She said she also hopes to draw attention to the issues regarding the use of Native mascots by using scientific data.