Western North Carolina Citizens For An End To Institutional Bigotry (WNCCEIB)

Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times September 26, 2000

Note: The article below appeared on the front page of the "Mountain" section of the Asheville (NC) Citizen-Times on September 26, 2000 along with a color photograph of Dr. Cornel Pewewardy giving his evening lecture.

There were 40 participants at the afternoon workshop and 175 at the evening public lecture. The UNC-A Chancellor, Dr. James Mullen, welcomed Dr. Pewewardy and the audience to the campus. Mr. Gregory Richardson, the Executive Director of the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs sent a GREETING which may be accessed, telling more about the Commission's RESOLUTION.

Education key to fighting negative ethnic stereotypes
by Clarke Morrison, AC-T staff writer

Asheville, NC:   - Washington Blackskins? How about the Kansas City Zulu Chiefs?

Americans wouldn't tolerate mascots so demeaning to Blacks, so they shouldn't be accepting imagery that stereotypes and denigrates American Indians, Cornel Pewewardy said.

"For us as native people, we're still American's fun and games," Pewewardy told a group of teachers Monday during a workshop at UNCA. "You and I are fighting a battle about ethnic images and what is real.

"We have the awesome task of transforming society, and there's no better place to start than in the classroom."

Pewewardy, an assistant professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas and an American Indian of the Comanche-Kiowa nation, also gave a free lecture to the public at the university. His visit was sponsored by the Buncombe County Native American Intertribal Association and several other groups.

Negative images and stereotypes of American Indians have been manufactured by Hollywood and spread through the media for decades to the detriment of the self-esteem of young native people, he said.

"Self-esteem is the generator of academic performance," Pewe3ardy said. "If you relegate them to something subhuman, they are not going to feel very good about themselves."

The issue of American Indian sports mascots erupted locally during the 1997-98 school year when some parents, teachers, and students at Erwin High School objected to the school's use of "warrior" and "squaw" mascots.

The U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into whether there was a "racially hostile environment" at Erwin, but dropped it last year after reaching an agreement with the Buncombe County Board of Education in which it agreed to stop using "squaws" to refer to the school's female sports teams.

Erwin High teacher David Voyles was among those who attended Monday's workshop.

"I think it's very important that we continue to hear voices like Cornel Pewewardy, and I think it's important to realize this is a national issue, not just an issue for, say, Erwin High School," he said. "And perhaps most important of all to educators to realize this is a curriculum issue."

The N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs recently passed a resolution calling for the elimination of Indian mascots and logos from all public schools in North Carolina by June 2003. Gov. Jim Hunt endorsed the resolution, pointing to "the impact such negative stereotyping has on the integrity of our public school curriculum."

For more than 20 years Pewewardy has been on the lecture circuit arguing against the continued use of Indian mascots by high school and college athletic teams. He said the effort had few results, until recently. The Dallas and Los Angeles school districts have banned Indian mascots and many other school systems are considering it.

"This issue is starting to see mainstream American listening up," he said. "Before, it wasn't this way. It was, "Oh, oh, here comes that Indian guy talking about Indian mascots.' It's not a new subject. It's just new to people who are just now starting to deal with it. And I'm happy to see this."

Contact Morrison at 828-232-5849


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