Date of Award

12-2017

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Teaching, Learning and Educational Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jill Hermann-Wilmarth

Second Advisor

Dr. Michelle S. Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Dini Metro-Roland

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access

Abstract

This research uses ethnohistorical methods to examine the use of imagery appropriated from American Indian cultures by the Dowagiac Union Schools. High School yearbooks from 1899- 2014, along with other artifacts, were identified as sources of information to describe students’ experiences. Applying Brayboy’s (2005) Tribal Critical Race Theory, an off-shoot of Critical Race Theory, combined with the research of historical and theoretical scholars like Davis (2002), Pewewardy (2001), and Deloria, King, and Springwood (2001), a case is made for the removal of American Indian mascots used by educational institutions, including the Dowagiac Chieftains. Though over 1,750 occasions of American Indian-appropriated imagery were documented in the yearbooks, the goal of mascot removal is complicated by the relationship that the Dowagiac Union Schools holds with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, based in Dowagiac. The Band and the school system came to an agreement in 1990 that allows the continued use of the Chieftains nickname, however there has been little oversight of the adherence to the resolution, and the commitment of the Dowagiac Union Schools has waned. This study hopes to reinvigorate the conversation between the two entities, as well as serve as an example for other schools that wish to examine their use of an American Indian mascot, and educators who want to interrupt the systems of oppression in their own educational institutions.

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