Last fall, USA Lacrosse announced the creation of a new Native American Advisory Council (NAAC) to help provide the national governing body with guidance on and a deeper understanding of issues related to Native communities. The formation of the NAAC is part of USA Lacrosse’s ongoing efforts to support greater diversity and inclusion in lacrosse.
“For the game to grow, we’ve got to pay close attention to diversity and inclusion,” said Andrew Lee, chair of the NAAC and a member of the board of directors for the Tewaaraton Foundation. “Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know the Native roots of lacrosse. I’d love to see lacrosse in general embrace its roots and honor its roots.”
As one of its first priorities, the NAAC has helped USA Lacrosse to develop an official position statement regarding Native American mascots. The controversial topic has been widely discussed and debated throughout the American sports landscape, including the use of team nicknames and images.
The USA Lacrosse position statement:
USA Lacrosse holds and promotes the core beliefs of sportsmanship, cultural diversity, and nondiscrimination in the lacrosse experience of every player, parent, coach, official, and fan. We commend those who have taken proactive steps to embrace an inclusive culture and will continue to strive to enhance the lacrosse experience for all communities. As the sport’s national governing body, USA Lacrosse believes that the misuse of Native American nicknames, logos, and mascots reflect and promote misleading stereotypes that are degrading and harmful to Native Americans. We will make every effort to assure that offensive or stereotypical mascots and logos will not be visible or promoted at events that USA Lacrosse controls.
“The minute you introduce stereotypical mascots or names that are based on ethnic or racial category, it’s problematic,” Lee said. “No one deserves to see her or his heritage mocked or reduced to a stereotypical slogan, image, mascot, or sideline chant.”
Lee noted that significant progress has been made over the past several decades in eliminating “Indian” references in sports, but more work is needed.
“While some people contend these mascots are harmless and are even respectful of indigenous communities, the reality is that they represent the continued dehumanization of Native peoples. Such dehumanization is psychologically damaging to Native youth, and reinforces bias among non-Natives,” he said. “It’s time for us to come together to end the era of using Native American names and images as team mascots – at all levels and in all sports.”
Moving forward, the NAAC will seek to develop new opportunities to responsibly grow the game and also celebrate the accomplishments of Native players.
“We’re putting together a small group of folks from all walks of life, Native and non-Native, who have expertise in Native American history or have thought carefully about how to grow the game,” Lee said. “The Council is working with USA Lacrosse in an effort to make sure every member of the lacrosse community is familiar with the roots of lacrosse as well as the contemporary contributions Natives make to the game.”