Yale apologizes over historic football game programs depicting old Dartmouth Indian mascot
By Evan Lips | October 12, 2016, 17:18 EST
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Combine the centennial Yale-Dartmouth football game, a game handout intending to show fans an array of historic football programs plucked from the days when the Granite State’s Ivy League member boasted an Indian as a mascot, along with the timing of Columbus Day weekend, and you’ve got conditions that are ripe for campus outrage.
A Yale Bulldog treeing an Indian after taking a chomp out of his sash depicted in a 1947 cover. A cover from 1944 showing a Yale football player lighting a match under another Indian, startling the adversary. Another cover from 1951 showing a cartoon-ish Indian running away from more Yalies.
The depictions were too much to handle for some, including Mary Kathryn Nagle, executive director of Yale’s indigenous performing arts program:
— Mary Kathryn Nagle (@MKNAGLE) October 9, 2016
It was Nagle’s tweet and a flurry of additional activity on social media that prompted Yale’s athletic department to issue an apology. In a post to its Facebook page, the Association of Native Americans at Yale likewise chimed in with its condemnation.
The athletic department in a statement apologized for the program cover which it acknowledged “included historic artwork of insulting portrayals of indigenous people” but notes that they “did not intend to perpetuate these portrayals or condone them.”
“Our intention was to recognize the 100-game relationship between Dartmouth College and Yale University,” the apology added. “We are truly sorry for the hurt this program cover caused, particularly for those from Native American communities.”
ANA-Yale “thanked” the athletics department for the apology but also used the incident to draw attention to several other perceived offenses, including the ever-present controversy surrounding the naming of a university college after the slaveholding statesman John C. Calhoun, which ANA-Yale pointed out was the founder of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
ANA-Yale also called out the school for “refusing to recognize the Quinnipiac people’s ongoing relationship with the land on which the university resides” and ripped the Yale Peabody Music of Natural History for “presenting our art ethnographically alongside dinosaurs and fossils, refusing to remove sacred pieces from view and failing to acknowledge contemporary communities.”
“It is clear that Yale institutions do not prioritize the accurate representation of indigenous peoples and our role in Yale’s history,” the group declared.
“It’s as if the people that selected the covers deliberately chose most offensive ones (covers) they could get their hands on,” one commenter posted. “Yale is well aware why that mascot was discontinued, so why reprint the images?”
Dartmouth retired the Indian mascot in 1974. The college’s sports teams have since been officially referenced as The Big Green.
On Monday, ANA-Yale celebrated “Indigenous Peoples Day” in lieu of Columbus Day, and had some choice words for the man who traveled the ocean blue in 1492:
Columnist John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Daily News opined that incident represented “another example of how intelligence and common sense are not always related functions, especially when it comes to social consciousness and awareness.”
“With the covers from 49 previous home games with Dartmouth to choose from – including 20 since Dartmouth eliminated the Indian as a mascot in 1974 – Yale included four previous renditions of covers that feature Native Americans, with several being blatantly racist for this day and age,” Smallwood pointed out. “Next time just use some common sense awareness that this is the 21st century and societal standards concerning what is acceptable have, thankfully, shifted.”
Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based public policy think tank, had a different take, labeling the outrage over the game program’s cover as an example of “the grievance industry (which) now threatens to undermine any recognition, let alone commemoration, of the past.”
“Those covers represent popular culture in a period past but, according to students and even some administrators, recognizing the depiction of Native Americans in the past is no longer acceptable,” Rubin noted. “What Yale students and faculty seem to be saying is that historical imagery is to be quarantined or banned even at an institution that once prided itself on valuing intellectual freedom and inquiry.”