Use of tomahawk chop depicts violent images
By Margaret Damghani
University of Texas fans make ‘hook ‘em horns’ with their hands and University of Florida fans use the gator chop while they cheer for their teams.
At the first UNCP home game, spectators tomahawk chopped and chanted to show their support, a practice originated by Florida State’s Seminoles and often used by the Atlanta Braves.
Is this show of spirit something that UNCP students should embrace as the ‘Braves’ or is it a practice which some might find offensive?
In order to discuss this issue, a look at the history of the use of UNCP’s nickname and logo is helpful in thinking about how the tomahawk chop might be perceived.
Back in 2002, the NCAA asked 31 schools, including UNCP, to review its use of American Indian logos and mascots.
Petitions and surveys showed that a large majority of students, faculty and members of the community supported the continued use of the logo and nickname.
“There is a tremendous desire to keep the heritage alive here,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said of the decision to fight to keep the Braves logo.
The NCAA decided in 2005 that UNCP could indeed keep using them.
When schools were reviewing their Indian mascots and names, many people voiced their opinions in blogs or published editorials.
On the one hand, many argue that the use of most American Indian logos honors American Indians for bravery and courage.
Some teams say they are supported by the American Indian communities that surround them, such as Florida State University and the Seminoles.
UNCP used the Braves nickname in the 1940s before students of other races were allowed admittance to the school in 1953.
On the other side of the issue, some feel that Indian mascots or logos stereotype American Indians of any tribe and are simply wrong regardless of the history of the institution. Specifically, tomahawk chopping calls to mind images of warfare.
Supporters of tomahawk chopping see it as innocent fun— an analogy for being victorious over the opposing team as one would have been victorious over an enemy.
But is this view taking for granted the history of what has happened to American Indians in this country? Is mock tomahawk chopping a harmful representation of American Indians as violent people?
“It’s simulating warfare defeating an enemy using a club to bash their head in,” Dr. Jay Hansford Vest of the American Indian Studies department said.
The administration has asked the football team not to use the tomahawk chop or chanting during games, according to Chancellor Meadors.
The football team represents the school and thus should not do anything that is potentially offensive, said Chancellor Meadors. But there is no plan to make a policy prohibiting public spectators from using these gestures.
There is opportunity for discussion of what traditions should be instituted to honor UNCP’s heritage.