Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
St. Mary's apologizes for T-shirt
By the Associated Press
A Catholic high school in Bismarck apologized for a T-shirt featuring an American Indian character after a complaint from United Tribes Technical College.
The shirts' logo depicts a male angel gritting his teeth while using a rope to dangle a loincloth-wearing Indian man with a feather in his hair over a pool of sharks.
The shirts were created to promote St. Mary's Central High School's Friday homecoming football game against Mandan High School, whose team is called the Braves.
UTTC Dean of Finance and Business Services Shirley Bordeaux brought the shirts to UTTC President David Gipp after picking up her granddaughter, who goes to St. Mary's, Wednesday. When she got into the car she showed Bordeaux the shirt.
"It didn't say who they were talking about or why they were dangling this man," Bordeaux said. "It didn't say what school he was representing or that he was representing a school."
In a letter to the high school, Gipp asked that the shirts be withdrawn and called on the school to publicly apologize.
"The message this cartoon sends is that Indian people are expendable and not worthy of being treated as human beings," Gipp wrote. "It's inconceivable to me that your school would have sanctioned such a shirt."
St. Mary's Superintendent John Jankowski said he received the letter Thursday morning and later spoke with Gipp on the phone.
"Our immediate reaction is one of being apologetic," Jankowski said.
He said the school didn't mean to offend anyone and planned work with teachers and students to make sure they understood why the caricature could be offensive to Indians.
"We need to work with our kids so they understand it's a problem," Jankowski said. "Because to the kids, it's a (football) game."
School officials told students they would collect the shirts on Monday, Bordeaux said, giving students the weekend to wear the shirts.
"What bothered me the most is when I went to pick her up, I was seeing all these students wearing these shirts," Bordeaux said. "Even the teachers were wearing the shirts. It made it apparent that whatever I said or whatever Dr. Gipp said, made no difference."
(Tribune reporter Sheena Dooley contributed to this report.)
One problem is that the t-shirt suggests we can hang Indians, even in jest. Another is the shirt's image of a "brave": "a loincloth-wearing Indian man with a feather in his hair." That's a common stereotype.
Team names and mascots
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