The University of Utah’s athletic department posted a video on YouTube starring athletic director Dr. Chris Hill asking members of the community for feedback on what are “some of the things that may be offensive and upsetting in a religious and sacred way to many of our Indian friends.” The University of Utah’s team is named after the Ute Indian Tribe and their logo includes an image of a drum and feathers.
“The reality of it is that we are the Utes, we do have our logo but I need some help from you,” Hill says in the video.
“I’m urging you to work with me in terms of things that may be offensive—headsets, face painting, tomahawks and et cetera—so that we can make sure our logo and the people we work with are proud of our program and that we can be successful,” Hill goes to say. (Presumably, Hill meant headdresses not headsets.)
Indian Country points out that up until 1972, the the Utah Utes were actually the Utah Redskins.
As stated on the team’s official site, “the University of Utah officially adopted the nickname Utes for its athletic teams in 1972. The school uses the nickname with permission of the Ute Tribal Council.
“If we want to keep [the logo], we need to listen to Dr. Hill (no relation, incidentally) and be respectful of Native American imagery. There is no need to wear headdresses—wear Utah hats,” wrote one commenter.
Another commenter provided more context on headdresses:
“First nations weren’t allowed to practice ceremony until 1978 ( Indian religious freedom act) and well feathers are part of the ceremonial tools used in ceremony’s . As long as there is no mascot and the selling of headress [sic] I’m okay with it because mascots portraying traditional leaders or elders that are wearing headdress is deem abusive and offensive. For instance one does not simply receive a headdress just because, but thru great respects to the receiver of the headdress.
The total number of undergraduate students at the University of Utah in the Fall 2011 semester was 24,29, according to UofU’s office of Budget and Institutional Analysis. Only 148 students—less than 1% of the student body—were American Indians or Alaska Natives.
Just a thought, but perhaps Dr. Hill’s next video could ask for feedback on how to get more American Indian students at the University of Utah.