What's in a name - sometimes a lot.

Like Australia, the United States has a very sports oriented culture and an important part of that culture is the team name and mascot. In the U.S. I have noticed many of the major teams have adopted mascots and team names which relate to Native American culture.

You have the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, Chicago Blackhawks and the most controversial of all, the NFL’s Washington Redskins. This one has been the subject of ongoing legal action as the term ‘Redskin’ is highly offensive and derogatory to Native American people.

The exact origins of the term are contested but to many Native Americans the term refers to the paying of a bounty for Indians and the ‘redskin’ was their bloody red scalp. It is interesting to observe the movement to address these names and it is estimated that 400 teams in U.S. high schools use the mascot of an Indian; 100 use brave; 74 warrior and 56 redskin. Native American people who oppose the mascots cite a violation of their intellectual property rights and see them as a misrepresentation of their culture. Those who want to use them say the intent is to honour the culture and that the mascots represent qualities such as strength, aggression and pride.

Where we differ in Australia is an almost complete absence of references to Aboriginal people and culture in our sporting teams in either name or mascot, at any level. There are a couple of teams who use the boomerang as a mascot but little other reference is made.