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What's in s Mascot? When the N.C.A.A. cracked down on Indian mascots last year, not every tribe applauded. A look at the relationship between the Seminoles and Florida State University.

Before the first players take the field at a Florida State University football game, a student dressed as Chief Osceola, a 19th-century Seminole warrior, rides a horse to the 50-yard line and throws a flaming spear into the ground. The fans, including some Seminole tribe members, erupt with cheers.

Outside the stadium stands a statue of the mascot above the word "Unconquered," because the Seminoles never surrendered to the United States when they were at war.

Images like these represent the complex relationship between Seminole culture and sports at Florida State. This bond has strengthened since a crackdown by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (N.C.A.A.) last year on Indian mascots, nicknames, and imagery among sports teams.

Toni Sanchez, a Florida State senior with both Seminole and Hispanic roots, calls the N.C.A.A. policy "beyond idiotic." She thinks the Indian imagery around campus is beautiful. "Every time I look at it, I get really giddy inside," she says. "I'm so proud of it."

The Seminole tribe, formed in the 1700s, was made up of Indians, especially Creek, who migrated south to Florida from Georgia and Alabama, as well as escaped slaves. In the 1830s, the U.S. government, under President Andrew Jackson, forced thousands of Indians to march from the southern U.S. to Oklahoma, along what became known as the "Trail of Tears." But hundreds of Seminoles stayed behind to fight, and the tribe is the only one never to sign a formal peace treaty with the U.S.

Today, there are 3,200 members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Many live near the university's Tallahassee campus.

18 SCHOOLS CITED

Florida State was one of 18 institutions cited by the N.C.A.A. in 2005 for "mascots, nicknames, or images deemed hostile or abusive in terms of race, ethnicity, or national origin." The policy, which forbids schools from using the symbols during N.C.A.A. postseason events, came after years of complaints from Native American groups.

Six of the 18 schools have since received N.C.A.A. permission to continue using their imagery after getting approval from specific Indian groups--in Florida State's case, the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Eight others have changed or plan to change their nicknames, according to the N.C.A.A. (see chart).

"What we've accomplished in part is to raise the level of awareness nationally about how we treat Native Americans," says N.C.A.A. president Myles Brand. "If we don't stand by our values, we lose our integrity." At times, he says, Indians are reduced to caricature, adding that the N.C.A.A. has been honored for its stance by Indian groups in Oklahoma and Indiana.

T.K. Wetherell, the president of Florida State, has a less complimentary view of the policy. He says the N.C.A.A. was "more interested in being politically correct" and did not consult the Seminole tribe before setting the policy.

Wetherell says he has offered to change the Seminole nickname, in use since 1947, but that the tribe approved of it because they were benefiting from the relationship too. (In recent years, the tribe's economic status has dramatically improved because of casino gambling, and it recently acquired the Hard Rock International chain of restaurants, hotels, and casinos for $965 million.)

"We've given them license to be theatrical," says one tribe official, referring to the Chief Osceola mascot. The tribe even helped the school create its mascot costume, which, while eye-catching, is not historically accurate.

But not everyone likes the Indian symbolism, particularly the controversial tomahawk-chop hand gesture.

"Things fans do are outrageous and ridiculous," says Joe Quetone, executive director of the Florida Governor's Council on Indian Affairs.

Toni Sanchez isn't bothered. She plays trumpet in a marching band that wears arrowheads on the back of its uniforms. She has also enjoyed taking the university's new course on Seminole history. "I know what a real Seminole is," she says. "This Anglo guilt and regret don't affect me."

People who are genuinely concerned about the circumstances of Indians, she says, should focus less on sports iconography and more on alcoholism, suicide, teen pregnancy, and high school dropout rates.

"After all those years of diseases, occupation, and war, we're still here," says Sanchez. "I refuse to believe that a silly mascot will take us down."

Joe Lapointe is a sports reporter for The New York Times.
STATUS REPORT

Where the 18 schools cited by the N.C.A.A. in 2005 stand

Received FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY * SEMINOLES
exemptions * UNIVERSITY OF UTAH * UTES
from CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSIT * CHIPPEWAS
the ban MISSISSIPPI COLLEGE * CHOCTAWS
on Indian CATAWBA COLLEGE * INDIANS
imagery * BRADLEY UNIVERSITY * BRAVES *

Changing * CARTHAGE COLLEGE * REDMEN (with feather imagery) to
nicknames RED MEN
& imagery MIDWESTERN STATE UNIVERSITY * INDIANS to MUSTANGS
(some SOUTHEASTERN OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY * SAVAGES
schools to SAVAGE STORM
have not CHOWAN COLLEGE * BRAVES to ?
yet chosen UNIV. OF LOUISIANA AT MONROE * INDIANS to ?
new INDIANA UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA * INDIANS to ?
names) * MCMURRY UNIVERSITY * INDIANS to ?
 NEWBERRY COLLEGE * INDIANS to ?

Retained on * UNIVERSITY OF NORTH DAKOTA * FIGHTING SIOUX
original. ARKANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY *INDIANS
List * UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS * FIGHTING ILLINI **
of schools ALCORN STATE UNIVERSITY * BRAVES
cited

* Placed on a five-year "watch list"

** Can keep nickname. but not mascot and logo

SOURCE: N.C.A.A.
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Title Annotation:NATIONAL
Author:Lapointe, Joe
Publication:New York Times Upfront
Date:Feb 19, 2007
Words:886
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