Throughout quarter three, Pathways High students in the Stereotypical Mascots seminar have been digging deep into the true history and effects of racism towards Native Americans. Students have researched, interviewed, written, revised, and recorded podcasts. After researching and interviewing community leaders, students joined together in small groups and wrote scripts for their podcasts. The result is a podcast series that focuses on racist Native American mascots and the stereotypical imagery that surrounds them. Once the episodes are finished, they will be submitted to NPR’s student podcast challenge. The challenge strives to engage students and create a fun learning method. Many students and teachers across the country have never recorded a podcast, so this competition is an opportunity to learn something new. Submissions will be scored based on creativity and unique information, and the winning podcasts will be featured on NPR.
Creating this series was a multi-step process, including contacting people from outside the school community and collaborative writing. After a few weeks of researching and learning as a class, students split into eight groups, each one creating their own episode for the podcast. Some groups investigated specific mascots, such as the Florida State Seminoles or Washington Redskins. Others studied a broader subject such as student activism in the mascot debate or overall history of Native American imagery. Each episode has a purpose and goal to educate the public on the effects of racist Native American mascots.
Students were able to talk with community leaders who have been part of the Native American mascot debate for years to gather information and quotes for their episode. Two groups interviewed Andrew C. Billings, a professor at University of Alabama and co-author of Mascot Nation. Another interviewee was Intikana, an international award winning musician. He wrote and produced a music video called “Native Eyez,” which brings awareness to the true history of Native Americans.
Students have worked hard to create a podcasts series that will bring light to this issue and encourage people to be more mindful in their everyday lives. The Native American mascot debate is an intimidating topic, and some people don’t believe they can make a difference as just one person. However, the students in this seminar will tell you that’s certainly not the case. One way to help us reach an anti-racist environment is acknowledging and eliminating cultural appropriation, or stolen traditions. For example, wearing a fake headdress to a football game may seem harmless, but it’s clearly racist and offensive once you know the origins of headdresses. Native American headdresses are constructed out of single eagle feathers that have been earned over time. They are a symbol of honor, as each feather must be given to you as a gift or earned from something you accomplished. It takes years to accumulate all of the feathers needed to create a headdress, so mocking them diminishes a sense of pride for Native Americans.
As a third year Pathways High student, I have never seen a seminar quite like this one. Each speaker that visited our class impacted me and revealed so much history that had been lost. Before this class, I knew that many events were missing from a typical history book. Now, I know that it’s so much more than that. When we say everything starts with Christopher Columbus, we leave out hundreds of thousands of people who were here first. Not only are we misunderstanding America’s history, but we are misrepresenting the ancestors of the people who were here first.