To some, American Indian mascots represent strength, power, reverence, and dignity. For others, Native American mascots are deeply offensive and mock tradition and sacred culture. Historically, professional and collegiate athletic teams have unabashedly sported American Indian mascots and monikers, and it has not been until recent decades that this issue has arisen as offensive or insensitive. In the past thirty or so years, there have been many high school and university administrations that have voluntarily switched their team mascot and moniker from an American Indian to a race-neutral one. Still, some university administrations and many professional sports franchises strenuously eschew calls to remove these racially insensitive mascots, believing that their moniker represents tradition and honor and as such remains a vital part of school or team tradition. These proponents argue that the elimination of their Native American mascot at their sporting events would destroy the cultural fabric of their respective institutions. Therefore, the use of these mascots is justified in the minds of these proponents.
Still, some identifiers indicate that as a society, we have entered into a period where more Americans are aware that American Indian mascots offend Native Americans and other non-native U.S. citizens alike. This enlightenment has resulted in the increasing number of sporting teams that have voluntarily changed their offensive mascot and moniker. That said, some institutions, such as the University of North Dakota (Fighting Sioux) and Florida State University (Seminoles) and the University of Utah (Utes) continue to field mascots and monikers that many view as hostile and abusive.
The law and popular opinion continues to evolve while some cling desperately and unapologetically to derogatory traditions.
andré douglas pond cummings, Progress Realized?: The Continuing American Indian Mascot Quandary, 18 Marq. Sports L. Rev. 309 (2008).