Activists say Indian nicknames offensive Seek to ban use of such mascots in Tennessee

American Indian activists in Tennessee say sports teams with Indian mascots are offensive and plan to ask state officials this week to outlaw their use.

Close to two dozen high schools, including Loudon High School, and 80 middle and elementary schools in Tennessee use Indians in their team name, according to activists, who say they will go before the state's Human Rights Commission on Friday to ask members to ban Indian mascots and symbols in state public schools.

The activists' resolution to be brought before the commission was adopted in 2005 by the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs, a state body that represents Indian interests.

"There's racism going on when you have a school mascot called the Redskins," said Tom Kunesh, an activist in Chattanooga who plans to go before the commission. "That's Native American imagery used and controlled by non-native Americans and often used in satirical and non-flattering ways."

Loudon High School athletic director Bill Thompson said his school uses the word "Redskins" as a nickname, and that's all.

"We just call ourselves Redskins, and I can't think of anything we do (tradition-wise) that would be related to that," Thompson said.

Numerous other high schools in Tennessee have Indian mascots. Among them is Riverdale High School in Murfreesboro, where the teams are nicknamed the Warriors and the school's mascot is Chief Win-Em-All.

Loudon used to have a person dressed as an Indian in the 1960s and 1970s, Thompson said, but never gave him a nickname.

Riverdale principal Tom Nolan said taking away the mascot would hurt the school, whose identity is tied to the Warriors.

"We take a lot of pride in being the Warriors," Nolan said. "This whole community would go crazy if somebody tried to change our name from the Warriors."

Indian-themed symbols at the school were twice attacked by vandals last summer and it wasn't clear if the motive was sports rivlary or anger at the symbols.

Thompson, a Loudon graduate, said Loudon formerly used Hilltoppers as its mascot name but in 1948 it changed to Redskins. He also said if Loudon were forced to change its name, it would.

"It would be a big tradition that we would lose," he said. "When we use the word 'Redskins' we're in no way doing anything anti- towards any group. It's just the name we've always used.

"I'm sure if we had to do it, we would change."