American Indian Mascots Harmful to Native Youth

Researcher to discuss findings of Center for American Progress report May 1

Erik Stegman

Erik Stegman of the Center for American Progress will discuss the impact of American Indian mascots on Native American youth.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Framing public debate about American Indian mascots in terms of economics, fan popularity or lack of racial intent ignores the consequences for Native Americans, particularly Native American youth, says Erik Stegman of the Center for American Progress.

Stegman will discuss a 2014 report, “Missing the Point: The Real Impact of Mascots on American Indian and Alaska Native Youth,” he co-authored for the Washington, D.C., think tank on Friday, May 1, at the University of California, Riverside. Stegman is director of field outreach and advocacy for the center’s Poverty to Prosperity program.

The lecture, which is part of the UCR School of Public Policy Seminar Series, will begin at 12:30 p.m. in CHASS Interdisciplinary 1113. It is free and open to the public. Parking permits may be obtained at the kiosk on West Campus Drive at the University Avenue entrance to the campus. Reservations are requested and may be made online.

Stegman said that “Missing the Point” explores mental health research that shows how the presence of these mascots in schools contributes to lower self-esteem for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students, “undermines the understanding of Native people by non-Native people, and contributes to an unwelcome and often hostile learning environment. This is all in the context of a population that deals with some of the most severe challenges to educational success in the country, and an epidemic suicide rate 2.5 times the national rate.”

Research also shows that team names and mascots in K-12 schools “undermine the educational experience of all students, particularly those with little or no contact with indigenous and AI/AN people,” according to the report. “In other words, these stereotypical representations are too often understood as factual representations and thus contribute to the development of cultural biases and prejudices.”

The report makes recommendations to local, state, and federal education agencies to step in and support AI/AN students dealing with racist mascots in their schools.

In addition to his work with the Poverty to Prosperity program, Stegman leads the development of the Half in Ten Annual Poverty and Inequality Indicators Report and develops policy and analysis supporting opportunity for rural and American Indian and Alaska Native populations.

Before joining the Center for American Progress he served as majority counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and is recognized as an expert on policy issues affecting tribal governments including economic development, law enforcement, violence against women, tax, education, and telecommunications. He also took the lead on developing the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act, which was signed into law as part of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization of 2013.

He was appointed in 2011 to serve as policy advisor to Assistant Deputy Secretary Kevin Jennings at the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. While there he led an intra-agency working group on American Indian policy development and organized the first federal lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth summit. He began his career in Washington, D.C. at the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center.

Stegman holds a J.D. from UCLA School of Law, an M.A. in American Indian studies from UCLA’s graduate division, and a B.A. from Whittier College. He also served for seven years on the National Board of Directors for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network where he earned the Charley Todd Award for Outstanding Board Leadership.

The Center for American Progress is an independent, nonpartisan educational institute dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action.

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