Mascots or Stereotypes?
World News Tonight
Wednesday, February 17, 1999
(This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.)
PETER JENNINGS There is another issue that is
causing some controversy at colleges and at high
schools. The Justice Department has launched its first
investigation into whether mascots with Indian themes
violate the civil rights of Native Americans. ABC’s Bob
Woodruff tonight on the debate in Asheville, North
BOB WOODRUFF, ABCNEWS (VO) For 42 years at
Erwin High School, the students have been known as
the Warriors and the Squaws. Then about two years
ago, the Indian names and symbols became the focus
of debates and protests.
RAYNE MERZLAK, NATIVE AMERICAN They’re
disrespecting the Native Americans, period. That’s the
way I get it. They just don’t care. “You all got a
problem, you all need to go home.” I hate to tell them
we are home.
BOB WOODRUFF (VO) The controversy remained a
local affair until last month, when a letter arrived from
the US Justice Department, notifying the school of a
WILLIAM YEOMANS, US DEPARTMENT OF
JUSTICE We’re looking into the school to see if there
is a racially hostile environment there.
BOB WOODRUFF (VO) Those charges have been
raised across the country. And while about 2,500
schools still use Indian mascots and names, protests
have forced about 600 colleges and high schools to
(on camera) But now the Justice Department’s
involvement in North Carolina has rallied students
behind their mascot. Last year, 44 percent voted for
change. This week, that number dropped to 24 percent.
FEMALE STUDENT I don’t think the majority of
students feel strongly about keeping the mascot, I think
the majority of students feel strongly about being told
to do something.
BOB WOODRUFF (VO) But at this point, the Justice
Department is not telling them to change. It is gathering
facts, trying to find a solution that both sides can live
with. Bob Woodruff, ABCNEWS, Washington.