Yale criticized for use of Dartmouth Indian images
On Oct. 8, Yale University’s program covers for the 100th Yale-Dartmouth football game featured Native American imagery that immediately drew sharp criticism.
This year’s cover featured images of eight covers from past years, several of which contained illustrations of Native Americans including Dartmouth’s unofficial former mascot, the Indian. Throughout this season, Yale’s game programs have included images of historic covers for all home games.
One cover from 1951 showed a Native American man running away from Yale football players. Another cover from 1942 showed a Native American man clinging onto a tree branch while Yale’s bulldog mascot snarled beneath him.
The criticism arose after students at the game shared images of the program on social media. Mary Kathryn Nagle, the executive director of Yale’s Indigenous Performing Arts Program, quickly used Twitter to post a picture of the cover and said that she “[could not] believe that Yale & Dartmouth would use such dehumanizing images of redface at a football game.”
Yale’s athletics department issued an apology for the images on Oct. 9.
“We did not intend to perpetuate these portrayals or condone them. Our intention was to recognize the 100-game relationship between Dartmouth College and Yale University,” the apology stated.
The press release apologized for the depictions that they described as in violation of the university’s values of mutual respect, equality and decency.
Thomas Beckett, the director of athletics at Yale, told the New Haven Register that the program cover was put together as an effort by the department. As a result, Beckett did not single out any individuals to be held responsible.
The Association of Native Americans at Yale released a statement on Facebook that condemned the imagery as being racist.
“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,” it said.
While ANAAY thanked Yale Athletics for its apology and said that they looked forward to working with the department to prevent future production and circulation of such program covers, they added that “it is clear that Yale institutions do not prioritize the accurate representation of Indigenous peoples and [their] role in Yale’s history.”
Several members of Yale’s athletics department will hold meetings with groups across campus to address and discuss the situation. Kelly Fayard, assistant dean of Yale College and director of the Native American Cultural Center, and Ned Blackhawk, a history professor at Yale and a member of the Te-Moak tribe, are among those expected to be at the meetings.
Fayard said she is looking forward to the meetings.
“It seemed to me that a lot of folks in athletics [department] didn’t even know, even after the game, that [the imagery] was on there,” she told the Register. “I’m really interested in educating people, not just so they know it’s wrong, but also to know why it’s wrong, given the history of caricatures of Native people and how it affects Native people today.”
Onyx Brunner, the Yale student who posted the image of the cover on Overheard at Yale, a popular campus Facebook page, told the Yale Daily News that the campus administration and organizers of sports events should be more cognizant of and sensitive about what imagery would be considered problematic.
Dartmouth was founded in 1769 to educate Native American youth, but there were only 19 Native American graduates during the college’s first 200 years. The college established the Native American program in 1970 to recommit itself to its objective of advancing Native American education. In 1974, Dartmouth adopted the new nickname “The Big Green.” Its athletics teams were unofficially known as “the Indians” until then.
Criticisms over usage of the Dartmouth Indian mascot have still flared up in the College’s recent history.
Last October, flyers promoting apparel and accessories featuring the Dartmouth Indian were distributed at Dartmouth during the final days of the Native American Fly-In program, during which prospective Native American students visit campus. Provost Carolyn Dever and Dean of the College Rebecca Biron criticized such actions at the time as “cowardly and disrespectful.”
In December 2006, Dartmouth Athletics apologized for scheduling a hockey tournament with the University of North Dakota “Fighting Sioux.” UND was banned by the NCAA, along with several other colleges with American Indian nicknames, from presenting its logos during playoff games.