Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Education

Date of Defense

5-13-2010

Graduate Advisor

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.

Committee

Patricia Boyer, Ph.D.

Virginia Navarro, Ph.D.

Paula King, Ph.D.

Abstract

At the time this study began, there were approximately 60 senior colleges and universities using Native American mascots or nicknames to represent their athletic teams (Fournier, 2003). Many Native Americans, coalitions, organizations, and researchers (Connolly, 2000; Davis, 2002; King & Springwood, 2000; NCAA, 2001) believe that these mascots are racist stereotypes of Native Americans and recommend that they be banned. In contrast, other people believe that Native American mascots signify honor and tradition. Differing meanings or opinions create an obvious conflict and each viewpoint includes a set of arguments to justify their beliefs. For example, many universities claim their alumni will stop contributing to the university if the mascot is removed. For the purpose of this study, the theory of semiotics was used to explain different meanings associated with Native American mascots and nicknames. The civil rights movement was successful in decreasing the number of offensive African-American images and caricatures (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 2001). However, it did not diminish the use of Native American images. Native American images and caricatures are used in everything from company logos to sports team mascots. The purpose of this study was to gain an in-depth understanding of the process that guided the removal of a Native American Mascot at one university. Data for this study was gathered from public and university records, ten personal interviews with faculty, staff, alumni, and community members, and one focus group with twenty-one students. The study examined historical documentation regarding the university’s mascot/nickname, the recent process that was used to change the mascot/nickname at the university, and opinions from students, faculty, alumni and the community regarding the university’s former Native American mascot/nickname. The opinions were gathered from the documents, interviews, and focus group and were coded using the most common themes that support and oppose Native American mascots found in the research literature. Overall, 153 opinions were coded in opposition of the Native American mascot and the most common theme was Code O7: Marketing and School Spirit. Overall, 543 opinions supported the use of the Native American Mascot and the most common theme was code S1: Honor, Respect, and Pride.

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