Civil Rights Company Says Native American Mascots Are Offensive

Senator Cathy Osten (CTNewsJunkie file photo)

Schools with Native American team names or mascots came under increased pressure to find alternatives on Tuesday when the state civil rights agency issued a statement calling the practice unsustainable.

“It is our agency’s position that it is no longer tenable to treat ethnic or racial groups as appropriate symbols for school sports,” said the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities in a press release.

The agency’s announcement, enforcing state civil rights and anti-discrimination laws, is another shot across the bow for cities with sports teams that use nicknames, mascots, or logos that feature Native American images.

It is the second such warning this month. Two weeks ago, lawmakers approved a household language that would allow the state to withhold grants from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund for around a dozen Connecticut cities if they refuse to change their team mascots.

In its statement on Tuesday, the CHRO said the mascots were effectively caricatures of the groups depicted and amounted to cultural appropriation. The group pointed to a study that suggested that their use was psychologically damaging to the educational experiences of both local and non-local students.

“Connecticut has had a long history of using Native American names and pictures as part of the educational experience,” said Tanya Hughes, executive director of the commission. “The use of these names is an act of racial appropriation, not even in the face of mounting evidence that quantifiable harm is being done to all students. While we understand that this can be challenging for some churches, it is time to end this practice. ”

The group praised the work of Senator Cathy Osten, a Sprague Democrat who co-chairs the Budget Committee. East spoke out in favor of passing the provision to withhold grants from the Pequot and Mohegan Fund, which is backed by revenue from Connecticut’s two tribal casinos.

“The people it reflects on have said that they do not appreciate this, that they think this is wrong,” said Osten earlier this month. “Why should the dollars you collect be used to support something like this?”

The CHRO said many Connecticut cities, including Farmington, Glastonbury, Newington, North Haven and Watertown, have recently taken steps to address the issue. In May, North Haven officials voted to withdraw the North Haven Indians logo after receiving a letter from the CHRO warning the agency to sue the city.

“Connecticut has reached a point on this issue,” the commission said Tuesday.

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