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Geographies of Indigenous-based team name and mascot use in American secondary schools

Ezra J Zeitler, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This dissertation identifies the geographic locations and characteristics of high schools using Native American nicknames and, through the examination of Indigenous-based iconography, analyzes the portrayal of Indigenous peoples in these learning environments. Primary and secondary data collected from archives, newspapers, yearbooks, directories, school websites, and fieldwork are utilized in various ways, including cartographic and quantitative analyses of 1,368 school locations and their attributes, numerous case studies highlighting concocted histories and stereotypical depictions of Native Americans, and a content analysis of Indigenous-based imagery photographed in 125 schools with predominately white student bodies. The first chapter defines the dissertation topic and provides a literature review of relevant geographic and anti-mascot literature, and Chapter Two stresses the relevance of studying team names. Chapter Three examines the Indian's role in the development of American identity and argues that the tradition of portraying of Native Americans as “Others” in literature, art, Wild West shows, film, and television continues to this day through the use of team names and mascots. Chapter Four applies Renato Rosaldo's concept of imperialist nostalgia, Mary Louise Pratt's idea of anti-conquest, and other theories to explain the selection and continued use of Native American mascots. National, regional, and local geographic patterns of mascot use are mapped and analyzed in Chapter Five, and Chapter Six critiques the portrayal of diverse Native American groups as stereotypical Plains Indians, noble and ignoble savages, masculine warriors, Indian princesses, and other depictions in secondary schools. The study complements existing geographic and anti-mascot literature in three ways: by approaching the Native American mascot issue from a spatial perspective and mapping the locations and characteristics of these schools for analysis, by strengthening the anti-mascot argument by examining the practice in secondary schools, the next logical step in a movement that has focused largely on professional and collegiate sports, and by advancing knowledge in geography and in the interdisciplinary realm of anti-mascot literature by using textual evidence from numerous historical periods, and at several geographic scales, to emphasize how race-based ideologies become manifest on the landscape and in life through the use of iconography and ritual.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Geography|Secondary education|Native Americans|Native studies

Recommended Citation

Zeitler, Ezra J, "Geographies of Indigenous-based team name and mascot use in American secondary schools" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3303651.