Tampa Bay Indigenous group will protest schools using Natives as mascots

The action will happen on June 21 at the Hillsborough County School Board Meeting.

click to enlarge Tampa Bay Indigenous activists demand the end of all Native mascots at a 2021 Super Bowl game in Tampa. - DAVE DECKER
Dave Decker
Tampa Bay Indigenous activists demand the end of all Native mascots at a 2021 Super Bowl game in Tampa.

On June 21, Tampa Bay Indigenous activists will gather at a Hillsborough County School Board meeting in Tampa to protest against the continued use of Native people as mascots at local schools.

For about a decade, the Native Americans have called for the schools to end their use of Native imagery for mascots, which they have several times made clear is disrespectful to their culture. They've written letters, held meetings and spoken at school board meetings, calling for the practice to end.

But their demands haven't been met, so they'll be protesting on Tuesday, June 21 from 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. at Hillsborough County School Board at 901 E Kennedy Blvd. in Downtown Tampa.

"No other people face this kind of stereotypical depictions."

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At the protest, there are two schools in particular that the Florida Indigenous Alliance (FIA) will speak out against: the Chamberlain High School "Chiefs" and the East Bay "Indians."

"Join us in calling for an end to the use of Indigenous peoples as a sports mascot for America's fun and games," FIA wrote on an event page for the protest. "No other people face this kind of stereotypical depictions."

When Hillsborough County Schools made changes to six schools in 2019, it was made clear that the county understood the impact that the disrespectful practice has on people from the Indigenous community. 

“The current mascots do not respect every culture and every person in our communities. Using Native American images and mascots can easily reduce living human beings to the level of a cartoon, caricature or stereotype,” the school district said in a statement to WFLA. “Even when there is no bad intent, these images can carry on and spread some of the symbols of the most painful parts of our great country’s history.”

Across the country, major league sports teams and schools have changed their names and imagery in response to the demands from Indigenous people.

Yet, Hillsborough Schools continues to allow Chamberlain and East Bay to use Native mascots.

Spokespeople from Hillsborough schools have claimed that while the mascots remain in place at those schools, the schools themselves have become more sensitive to cultural issues.

In the past, the callousness toward Native people was rampant. Photos on social media and from newspaper clippings from the ‘90s show seemingly non-Native people dressing up in Native regalia at Chamberlain throughout the years, practicing cultural appropriation.

Local Indigenous groups are fed up with the appropriation, and call on supporters to join them as they escalate their resistance to the use of Native mascots.

"It's time to be actually respectful of the Indigenous peoples," FIA wrote in a statement. "We ask human beings to stand with us in our call to end the use of Indigenous peoples as a sports mascot."

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia previously wrote for the USA Today Network, The Economic Hardship Reporting Project, Scalawag Magazine, and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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