The Cleveland Indians have spent the last few years shuffling their racist Chief Wahoo logo, a Sambo-like Native American caricature that wears a gaudy grin, to the backburner. Once the team’s primary logo, Chief Wahoo still appears the Indians’ uniforms, albeit in a less prominent fashion. But that didn’t stop New Era, the company that makes all of baseball’s game-used caps, from bringing back the logo for its special Fourth of July edition lids. And somehow it managed to make the logo even more offensive by draping it in an American flag and making it look a lot like blackface:
The Indians have donned similar hats during previous Independence and Memorial Day games, though they’ve more recently used their new, non-offensive logo instead. And fortunately, for somewhat obvious reasons, the league and organization decided that the cap was a bad idea, because Business Insider reported today that New Era released an image of the cap by mistake. That seems hard to believe, but either way, the Indians will wear this cap instead:
The question is why, at a time when the use of Native American imagery in sports is the subject of debates from high school to the pros, baseball and New Era keep making this mistake. After all, it has been less than six months since MLB and New Era pulled the plug on an Atlanta Braves cap that used an offensive Native American logo the Braves long ago abandoned. And yet here we are again.
A Navajo reservation on the Arizona-New Mexico border has seen its HIV diagnoses go up by 20 percent since 2011. Despite a concerted push by the federal Indian Health Service (IHS) and public health advocates to expand tribal HIV education programs, doctors have found treatment and prevention efforts to be stymied by cultural stigma surrounding the disease and homosexuality.
Since the Navajo tribe is a comparatively isolated population, the topline numbers of HIV infections among tribe members are relatively low, and at least part of the rise is attributable to enhanced screening efforts. However, that same seclusion allows stigma and the fear of community repercussion to prevent infected Navajo men from seeking care once they are diagnosed. “Our communities are very small, and that can lead to people avoiding stigma, rather than getting the care they need,” IHS chief medical officer Dr. Susan V. Karol told the New York Times.
Melvin Harrison, the executive director of the Navajo AIDS Network, which provides services for tribal members with H.I.V., said that of the 65 people his group treats, a majority have not told family or friends.
“That’s how big the stigma is here,” he said. “They are afraid of rejection.” [...]
One Navajo man, who contracted H.I.V. from his partner in 2001, recalled how his mother refused to hug him and served him food on plastic plates when she found out he was infected. [...]
[The] man has not told his three brothers that he has H.I.V. because he fears they will shun him. “I don’t think I’ll ever tell them,” he said. “I don’t want to be pushed out of their lives.”
This dynamic devolves further due to the added stigma regarding homosexuality in the tribe. The IHS estimates that men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for accounted for nearly half of the new cases since 2011, and 75 percent of the Navajo AIDS Network’s clients are closeted homosexual men.
But this tendency to sweep HIV infection under the rug presents a major barrier to an effective treatment regimen. Family and community awareness of the disease is an important tool for making sure that HIV-positive men are following through on their medications and checkups. Conversely, the desire to keep a diagnosis secret can create tensions in tribal doctor-patient relationships and contribute to treatment noncompliance. Teen mothers and mentally ill Americans have faced similar stigma, and have either forgone care or been denied access to adequate medical and social resources as a consequence.
For the Navajo community in particular, overcoming these archaic cultural mores is literally a matter of life and death. Although the medical reason for it remains ambiguous, researchers note that Native Indians diagnosed with HIV and AIDS have a lower chance of survival compared to other racial groups.
Last week, I wrote about how the owner of Washington’s National Football League team promised to never change that team’s derogatory name, and that the only thing that may cause change is a trademark lawsuit that could make calling a team the “Redskins” far too costly to tolerate. A new study, however, suggests that Snyder may already be costing himself money by not changing the name.
The arguments in favor of keeping the name “Redskins” stem from tradition and nostalgia — the team has been the Redskins since 1933, when it still played in Boston. It would make sense for Snyder to worry, then, that changing it would have negative economic consequences. Team names are brand markers, and changing up the brand isn’t usually a recipe for financial success — estimates say the cost of changing the brand for an NFL team could be as high as $10 million to $20 million.
In the case of mascots that utilize Native American imagery, though, reshaping the brand identity may actually be good for business, according to research from sports marketing experts at Emory University. Emory’s Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi studied the economics of college teams that dropped Native American imagery — either team names or actual mascots — and found that the negative effects are muted, limited to only a one- or two-year time frame. After that, the costs subside — and may even turn into benefits:
In terms of financial impact, the model results suggest that school’s experience a very short (1 or 2 years) negative impact and then quickly recover. The results also suggest that in the long-term the shift away from a Native American mascot yields positive financial returns. As a follow up, we used the brand equity measures created here as a dependent variable and regressed this value against the previously defined variables related to the school’s use of a Native American mascot. In this analysis we found NO significant effects. The key implication is that switching away from a Native American mascot has no long-term negative effect on brand equity.
Lewis and Tripathi caution that the study isn’t perfect: they had to predict revenues based on winning percentages and other variables, so there’s a fair amount of guesswork involved. And men’s college basketball and professional football aren’t a perfect comparison, as they note, because football teams are more likely to be identified primarily by their mascot (“the Cowboys” or “the Redskins”) while colleges are identified by school name (“Maryland” or “Oklahoma State”).
Still, they’re confident that their “findings have a great deal of face validity.” As they wrote: “While some fans may complain, it is not clear that these fans actually change their behavior or their shopping habits. It might also be that merchandise sales become more appealing to segments that did not like the previous Native American mascot.” So even if the biggest estimates are right, the losses could be temporary, and dropping the name Redskins could ultimately cost Dan Snyder less than any number of bad contracts he’s handed out in recent years.
The automatic budget cuts that went into effect on March 1 are already having a devastating impact on education and health services on American Indian reservations, where poverty and unemployment rates are already sky-high and high drug addiction and school dropout rates make education an even bigger necessity than it is in other parts of the U.S.
The federal government provides roughly 60 percent of the funding for reservation schools, according to the Washington Post, and on reservations like Montana’s Fort Peck that have already faced budget cuts are now cutting Head Start and summer school, saving money by not filling vacant jobs, and cutting health care services, the Post reports:
The superintendent can’t hire a reading teacher in an elementary school where more than half the students do not read or write at grade level. Summer school, which feeds children and offers them an alternative to hanging around the reservation’s trash-strewn yards, may be trimmed or canceled. [...]
The school system — for which federal funding already had been reduced before the sequester — is looking for $1.2 million in additional cuts, partly by not filling jobs that go vacant. The Indian Health Service, the reservation’s main source for health care, will also be cut by 8 percent, and Head Start, which serves 240 toddlers, will be cut by 5 percent, officials said.
“Instead of trying to cut, we should be adding,” said Kent Hoffman, the vice principal at the high school, who is also filling in as athletic director, another job that will not be filled. “To me, this is insane.”
States across America are kicking kids out of preschool programs because of sequestration. Indiana is using a lottery to randomly remove kids from Head Start, Tennessee is ending bus service (which could reduce enrollment), and Washington is ending food programs in an effort to keep from removing kids from the program, though officials say that too is “simply unavoidable.”
But the effects of budget cuts are even bigger for reservations, which do not have private property to tax and thus rely on federal education funds more than typical school districts. So Fort Peck will no longer fund a vocational training program, leaving students on a reservation where the unemployment rate tops 50 percent unable to take advantage of the booming oil and gas industry across the state line in North Dakota. Children won’t get preschool. Teachers will lose jobs. People who need medical assistance won’t get it. All thanks to budget cuts the United States doesn’t need.
The New York Times editorial board published a column Thursday slamming Congress for the disproportionate impact that sequestration will have on native tribes’ access to health care services, asserting that the “federal government cannot use its budget nihilism to avoid its moral and legal obligations.” Considering the dismal health care demographics of American tribal populations and the Indian Health Service’s (IHS) already-paltry funding, their outrage may be justified.
The IHS was formed in 1955 and tasked with overseeing health care services for American Indians and Alaskan Natives. Unfortunately, a combination of factors including anemic funds and oversight failures has left IHS in perennial disarray, prompting a 2010 Senate panel to conclude that it suffered from “chronic mismanagement,” unfilled vacancies in top positions, and subpar medical facilities at risk of losing their accreditation.
According to Indian Country Today, things began looking up in 2008 when appropriations for benefits such as the Contract Health Service — which funds medical services outside of the regular tribal health network — and the Improving Patient Care program were increased substantially, opening up tribes’ access to preventative screenings and affordable primary care, as well as boosting patient satisfaction by nearly 20 points.
Unfortunately, that all came to a screeching halt with sequestration. The budget cuts were only supposed to affect discretionary spending, while entitlements for the needy, such as Medicaid and nutritional assistance, were meant to be spared from austerity. But IHS funding doesn’t fall under this protected category. Rather, IHS believed that its funds would be shielded by a 1980s law barring Congress from cutting its budget by more than 2 percent — as it turns out, IHS was dead wrong:
IHS Director Yvette Roubideaux and her staffers had said at various tribal meetings and in letters throughout 2011 and early 2012 that “the worst-case scenario would be a 2 percent decrease from current funding levels” for IHS, rather than the 9 percent that was forecasted for most federal agencies if the sequester went into effect.
But Indian country began to learn late last year that Roubideaux’ predictions were wrong. IHS would be cut on March 1 at the same rate as every other non-protected agency. And since IHS was late to the game in planning for the larger cut, it didn’t work as aggressively at saving and protecting its resources as it could have. Also—and perhaps most egregiously—it fed tribes misinformation that cost them months of planning and advocacy time. “It’s unfortunate that we all relied on [IHS’s] earlier interpretation, because we could have addressed this earlier with the administration—especially the OMB—and the Congress,” said Jim Roberts, a policy analyst with the Northwest Portland Indian Health Board.
“Had IHS communicated the correct information in the previous fiscal year, tribal care providers that receive IHS funding would have been able to modify their budgets so they would have had more resources for this year—and thus the cuts to tribal citizens wouldn’t be as steep,” added Lloyd Miller, an Indian affairs lawyer with Sonosky Chambers who has worked on many lawsuits involving the agency. “The earlier tribal providers could have been planning for disaster, the better. In this case, tribes lost a whole year.”
Public health issues already disproportionately impact Native tribes in America. Over one third of all Native Americans lack health insurance coverage; tribes have higher rates of smoking and alcoholism than other populations; and over 13 percent of Natives self-report being in “fair” or “poor” health — a much higher figure than most other racial groups. Unfortunately, congressional dysfunction may end up adding more problems to the list.
MCNAMARA: There should not be a dividing line, and we should all be able to seek a good life.
Unfortunately, those who will now be able to marry through the Little Traverse system still face legal questions in the state of Michigan due to a constitutional ban on gay marriage in the state. Though the Tribe has the sovereign authority to enact its own marriage laws, it is unlikely that the state will recognize them.
Bryan Fisher, Director of Issues Analysis for the right-wing American Family Association, not only derided the tribe’s decision, but went a step further to prescribe their cultural values to the tribe:
FISCHER: We think it would be a serious mistake for any sovereign nation to legalize same sex marriage…Homosexual behavior itself is immoral, it is unnatural and it is unhealthy, and it is a mistake for any culture to normalize that kind of behavior.
Two other Tribal nations have legalized same-sex marriage, the Coquille Tribe in Oregon, and the Suquamish Tribe in Washington. And, the LGBT legal equality movement is growing with the launch of a new Tribal equality toolkit, now being shared with interested tribal leaders.
Our guest blogger is Erik Stegman, Manager for the Half in Ten campaign at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
HARRINGTON: We have our own constitution, our own court system, and our own government here, police force, etc, DNR, so it’s our right to express equality… In my mind, we’re all equal in our creator’s eye.
Marriage equality at Little Traverse is the latest in a larger movement by tribal members and tribal leaders to pass marriage equality measures. In fact, a new tribal LGBT equality toolkit was just released last fall to help tribal leaders incorporate comprehensive protections for LGBT people and families into their tribal codes. The Indigenous Ways of Knowing program, which released the toolkit, is now working on implementing with interested tribal leaders and their governments.
Our guest blogger is Erik Stegman, Manager for the Half in Ten campaign.
INDIANOLA, Iowa — Republicans have offered a number of reasons why they oppose the Violence Against Women Act. Some think it’s unconstitutional. Others argue that it’s just a meaningless bill with a patriotic title.
On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) added a new one: Native Americans supposedly aren’t capable of holding fair trials.
Last week, Grassley was one of just 22 senators—all Republican men—who voted against reauthorizing VAWA. During a town hall meeting in Indianola on Wednesday, a woman asked him to explain his vote. Grassley responded that the legislation is unconstitutional, a belief shared by at least five of his colleagues.
Since the Constitution guarantees citizens the right to a trial among a jury of peers, Grassley reasoned that white men would be deprived of their rights if those who were accused of violence against Native American women had to appear in a tribal court. “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” Grassley said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”
GRASSLEY: One provision that non-Native Americans can be tried in tribal court. And why is that a big thing? Because of the constitutionality of it, for two reasons. One, you know how the law is, that if you have a jury, the jury is supposed to be a reflection of society. [...] So you get non-Indians, let me say to make it easy, you get non-Indians going into a reservation and violating a woman. They need to be prosecuted. They aren’t prosecuted. So the idea behind [VAWA] is we’ll try them in tribal court. But under the laws of our land, you got to have a jury that is a reflection of society as a whole, and on an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right? So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.
There is actually no requirement that juries reflect “society as a whole.” The Sixth Amendment requires juries to be drawn from the “State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,” and Supreme Court decisions establish that criminal defendants also have a right to a jury which is “drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” where the trial court convenes to hear their case. But this does not entitle anyone to be tried by a jury that reflects the whole of American society.
A person who is tried in Vermont is likely to have an all-white jury because over 95 percent of Vermont is white. Similarly, a person who commits a crime in the Navajo Nation will face a jury of Native Americans because the population of the local community is made up of Navajo people. There is no reason to believe that Navajo jurors are any less impartial than white Vermonters, and Grassley is wrong to suggest otherwise.
Grassley went to great lengths to tell attendees that he had supported VAWA in the past. “I support 98 percent of what’s in the bill,” he said. If it weren’t for his belief that Native Americans’ are incapable of conducting a fair trial, perhaps he would have voted for it again.
If you want Congress to reauthorize VAWA, sign ThinkProgress’ petition here.
In an interview late last year with Huffington Post, Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), one of two registered Native Americans in Congress, dismissed the notion put forth by Grassley that tribal courts are incapable of holding fair trials. “People seem to have this fantasy that Indians and courts are going to try to make up for what happened to them for hundreds of years of history,” said Cole. “That’s just not true.”
Indian Country Today points to a report suggesting that many tribal court juries would likely be more diverse than juries in much of the United States:
A recently released report by the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center titled Policy Insight Brief titled, Statistics on Violence Against Native Women that states according to the 2010 U.S. Census “46 percent of people living on reservations in 2010 were non-Native.” Almost half the reservation population would essentially lead to diversity on juries. The figure is as a whole in the United States, and there may be areas where this number is drastically lower, but that is where the Sixth Amendment comes in.
Some Republicans have objected to new provisions in the law, including one allowing tribal courts for the first time to prosecute men who aren’t American Indians when they’re accused of abusing an American Indian woman on a reservation. . . .
[JOHNSON]: “the Senate has approved a piece of legislation that sounds nice, but which is fatally flawed. By including an unconstitutional expansion of tribal authority and introducing a bill before the Congressional Budget Office could review it to estimate its cost, Senate Democrats made it impossible for me to support a bill covering an issue I would like to address.”
In fairness to Johnson, his objection is much narrower than the one raised by senators like Paul and Cruz, and applies only the provision of the VAWA renewal that would permit tribal prosecutions against non-members of the prosecuting tribe. Nevertheless, Johnson is simply wrong about the Constitution.
It is true that the Supreme Court held back in the 1970s that tribal courts do not have criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans, but that decision concluded that “Indian tribes . . . give up their power to try non-Indian citizens of the United States except in a manner acceptable to Congress.” More recently, the Court’s 2004 decision in United States v. Lara recognized that Congress “does possess the constitutional power to lift the restrictions on the tribes’ criminal jurisdiction over nonmember Indians.” The reasoning of that decision would also apply to a law expanding tribal jurisdiction further to include non-Native Americans who engage in violence against women on reservations.
So Johnson is wrong about the Constitution, and his opposition to protecting Native American women is downright cruel. Eighty percent of Native American rape survivors were attacked by non-Indians, and a 2010 report by the General Accounting Office determined that federal prosecutors “declined to prosecute 46 percent of assault matters and 67 percent of sexual abuse and related matters.” As a result, many reservations are virtually law free zones for serial rapists who prey upon Native American women without consequence.
Rapists should be legitimately prosecuted, but Eric Cantor has ways of shutting that whole thing down
As Irin Carmon explains in a must read piece at Salon, Native American reservations are virtually law-free zones for women victimized by non-Indian rapists. Eighty percent of Native American rape survivors were attacked by non-Indians, and these crimes are currently beyond the reach of tribal authorities. Meanwhile, federal officials have the theoretical power to prosecute sexual assaults on reservations, but they lack the resources to do so. The result is that many abusers quickly learn they are free to attack women without consequence:
“We have serial rapists on the reservation — that are non-Indian — because they know they can get away with it,” said Charon Asetoyer, executive director of the Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center in Lake Andes, S.D. “Many of these cases just get dropped. Nothing happens. And they know they’re free to hurt again.” . . .
Overall, American Indians are two and a half times likelier to be victims of violent crime than the general population, according to the Department of Justice. But a 2010 report by the General Accounting Office found that there is an unusually high rate of refusals to prosecute by U.S. attorneys, who “declined to prosecute 46 percent of assault matters and 67 percent of sexual abuse and related matters.” The report noted that violent crimes actually had a higher rate of declination, possibly because the evidence was harder to come by.
In the House several top Republicans, including members of the House Leadership, proposed a compromise bill that would extend these protections to Native domestic violence victims while allowing defendants to remove their case to federal court. Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), however, reportedly refuses to accept any protections for Native women that would expand tribal jurisdiction. As a result, there is a very real danger that Cantor will kill the bill by simply waiting out the clock until the new Congress is sworn in.
In the immediate aftermath of the Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock debacles, one would think Cantor would be willing stop standing on the side of rapists for purely political reasons, even if he cannot actually bring himself to care about holding rapists accountable. Apparently, however, the #2 man in the House still stands with the likes of Akin and Mourdock.