Charlene Teters came to CSUSB on November 12 to discuss the issue of Native American mascots in the 21st century.
Charlene Teters is an activist, multimedia artist and educator who wants to raise awareness about Native American mascots’ use in universities and its cultural inappropriateness. She spoke in front of more than 100 students and faculty at the Santos Manuel Student Union theater about her journey at the University of Illinois.
She became an activist once she saw that the university was not respecting the identity of Native Americans. She made sure that the use of Native Americans multimedia artwork was not used as a sport mascot.
“When I got accepted to the University of Illinois I was very happy, but who would think you have to research their mascot,” Teters said, “Because everyone’s culture should be respected no matter where you go.”
Not only did the university use a Native American chief as their mascot, but fraternities and sororities would stereotype the behaviors of Native Americans.
Before games, students would tailgate, and on one of the RVS, there was a sign that read “Save the Chief, hang the Indians. If you’re one of three Native Americans on a college campus of more than 45,000, you pretty much know who they are talking about,” Teters said.
“It was harsh, it was threatening, and it was devastating for us. There were few public spaces where we felt safe,” Teters expressed.
Students would tell Teters and the couple other Native Americans attending the university to just “shut up, get their degree and get out.” Despite the mistreatment, she knew that if she left the school, the university would win.
Teters also expressed how her children were also victims in school. Classmates would taunt them because of who their mother was. Handouts were given out in honor of mental health awareness and how to cope with stress.
Persevering through her journey, Teters has now gone on to be nationally and internationally known for her work and conversations on diversity.