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South Carolina columnist: Seminole mascot is racist

Dec 29, 2010, 10:07 AM EDT

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Much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Florida at this hour over a column by Ron Morris in The State (the Columbia, South Carolina daily newspaper). In the piece, Native American civil rights activist Russell Means denounces Florida State for continuing to use its Chief Osceola character at football games; the guy on horseback who dresses in Seminole Indian garb and plants a spear in the turf.


Those stereotypes will be out in full racist form this week in Atlanta when the Florida State Seminoles play South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. A Florida State official said the athletics department will not cart its horse, Renegade, or its pseudo-Indian, “Chief Osceola,” and his flaming spear from Tallahassee, Fla., for the game.

That will not stop Florida State cheerleaders and fans from adorning their faces with “war paint” and practicing the “Tomahawk Chop,” a chopping motion of the hand, as the pep band plays the “war chant.”

Never mind that the Seminole Indian tribe they supposedly are imitating never engaged in fighting, did not whoop! whoop! whoop! like stereotypical American Indians — Means prefers that term, rather than Native Americans — and never carried spears or tomahawks.

Strong stuff. And it’s provoked more than a bit of outrage from Florida State fans who went on the warpath left furious responses in The State’s comments section.

  • so who researched this exactly? Pathetic Journalism…….did you graduate from the Harvard of the South as it’s known? — Jeff Reed
  • Both the columnist and the newspaper should be embarassed by this article. It’s about as valuable to understanding the issue as a third grader’s interview with grandpa would be to help understand the Vietnam war. — Chase30
  • Seriously? You actually put this in the paper? You found Al Sharpton’s big mouth cousin in South Dakota and without any background wrote an entire piece on it? When you come to work, did you notice that half of your building is now for rent? Why do people stop reading newspapers? Because of this race bating crap. — JPF16c

You may know Russell Means as Chingachgook from the 1992 Daniel Day Lewis version of The Last of the Mohicans (“Stay alive, no matter what occurs!”). Or, Wandering Bear on that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. But his biggest role has been that of spokesman for Native American civil rights.


“The depiction of a wild savage riding willy-nilly on horseback with a spear and stabbing it in the ground conjures up savagery,” Means says. “(Seminole Indians) didn’t have lances. They had short hunting bows. But they damn sure didn’t utilize horses or spears, and they didn’t utilize paint. They didn’t paint their faces.”

But what about the fact that the Seminole Tribe in Florida has approved of FSU using the nickname?

Florida State fought hard to keep its nickname. The Florida legislature even threatened to sue the NCAA if Florida State was forced to lose its Seminoles moniker. And, of course, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which receives approval to operate gambling casinos on its reservations from the state legislature, went along.

“You would think once (the Seminole Tribe) got economic independence with their casinos, that they would have some modicum of self-respect,” Means says. “But I guess becoming rich capitalists doesn’t equate to self-respect. One only has to look at Wall Street to see that.”

So Florida has its own Confederate flag-type controversy, right on the eve of an FSU bowl game. I’m betting we haven’t heard the last of this Mohican (reader throws brick).

Morris: FSU’s Seminole imagery is racist, inaccurate [The State]