Native Youth Take on Mascot Issue at South Dakota School

Posted By Toyacoyah Brown February 23rd, 2015 Last Updated on: February 23rd, 2015


Elle magazine recently featured a story on the Damakota Youth Group, a group of female basketball players on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota who are trying to convince neighboring Sisseton School to change their Redmen mascot name and logo. It's not just the name and the logo that are offensive, it's also the school culture surrounding the name, particularly the homecoming activities.


The Sisseton School District also has an annual Redmen homecoming coronation, in which students wearing face paint mimic traditional Native American ceremonies while dressed in “cheap, sexy-looking Pocahontas Halloween-style dresses and chief's headdresses,” explains Eastman, adding that the Damakota Youth Group disagrees with the coronation and would like the school to reconsider the tradition.

“Every year they choose four ‘maidens' and four men to go on a vision quest to find their prince and princess. Most of the time the girls are non-Natives wearing little Pocahontas dresses, and that's very offensive to our people. Our women always cover their bodies,” says Eastman. “And then there's the chief. When he's crowned he has a headdress on his head. This is something that takes very long to earn—sometimes it can take your whole life, because each feather is earned individually. Not just anyone can put on a headdress. It's very offensive.”

Felicity, who says the coronation makes her feel “dehumanized, angry, and awful,” likens it to her tribal school using a “pope and a nun” in its own homecoming ceremony. “[Christianity] is a religion that shouldn't be made fun of, just like our Indian heritage,” she says, adding that she can respect if some people believe they are honoring her culture, but asks that the school and students be “open-minded enough to understand what we are trying to say, and learn our history,” she explains. “There are other ways they can honor us.”

Good job ladies for standing up for your beliefs. It's great when these issues get mainstream attention as well. Hopefully this article will open up some eyes to the situation and perhaps a little empathy from the Sisseton School District will be shown.


For more on the story, check out Elle magazine and Last Real Indians. You can show your support for these ladies at https://www.facebook.com/damakotayouthgroup.

Home » Native American Articles » Native American Culture » Native Youth Take on Mascot Issue at South Dakota School

About Toyacoyah Brown

Toyacoyah Brown is an enrolled member of the Comanche Nation, currently living in Chicago. She received her B.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in Media Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. When she's not scouring the Internet for fun things to share with PowWows.com readers you can find her digging for vinyl in her local record store or curling up with a good book.

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Mark Matthews

I am proud of our indigenous youth and the future looks promising for future generations that shall come her after. This issue is a worthy endeavor that deserves mention and these young “Warrior Women” are truly worthy of their birth right to be called, “Warrior Women”. The women are life givers and these young women shall be great leaders in this pro-active action. I leave with these words that come from my heart. In this action, there stands beside the mountain. from were the river flows, the future, heart, and spirit of a people.

Lisa Paul

I “liked” the Powwow.com Facebook page because I’m planning a trip to Montana, Wyoming and the Dakotas this summer and wanted to keep abreast of the Powwows that I might attend. But I’ve been fascinated by the many interesting and inspirational stories that keep showing up in my feed (like this one). Thanks for thoughtful and fascinating stories. I’m enjoying them and inspired them, although I am not Native American.

Paul G

Thanks! Glad you are enjoying our stories!

Robert Roenfeldt

Non native American. Totally support this, leave their heritage out of your cheap gaudy high school activities!

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