On the weekend of Columbus Day, Yale University was embroiled in controversy after using racist images of Native Americans from its past.
The occasion was the 100th meeting of Yale’s football team with Dartmouth. The context was old program covers the school’s athletic department used to form a collage for a commemorative issue. The content was four images of Native Americans, being chased by a bulldog, Yale’s mascot, having their clothes lit on fire by a football player and fleeing Yale players while wearing war paint and holding a mask.
The program was immediately denounced on social media and by the Association of Native Americans at Yale (ANAY), who issued a statement to Facebook on Sunday saying, “the promotion of racist mascots creates non-inclusive learning environments for Native students, compounds challenges in promoting accurate portrayals of Indigenous cultures and traditions, and perpetuates prejudice and discrimination against Native peoples.”
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Dartmouth has previously used Indians as the school’s mascot and team name for athletics, but switched to the Big Green in the 1970s according to the Associated Press.
Yale athletic director Thomas Becket issued an apology Sunday for the cover, calling the images ones that “we have long considered to be a violation of our values of mutual respect, equality and decency,” according to Inside Higher Ed.
Then, on Monday, Yale celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day as a replacement of Columbus Day. ANAY hosted speakers on the Dakota Access Pipeline, and association president Katie McCleary addressed the program.
“That was alarming to us, but in some ways not very surprising,” McCleary said to the New Haven Register. “It’s just a more blatant, racist act than some of the other racism that we experience on Yale’s campus.”
As part of the day’s celebration, Yale president Peter Salovey sent a university-wide email, in which he also commented on the controversy.
“The printed materials for the Yale football game on Saturday contained offensive depictions of Native Americans, and this unfortunate incident reminds us of the necessity to educate our community about respecting and valuing Native American culture and experience,” Salovey wrote.