The Yale football team’s victory over Dartmouth Saturday was tainted by program booklets that featured racially insensitive portrayals of Native Americans on the cover.
The booklets, which were printed to commemorate the football team’s 100th game against Dartmouth, included eight historic renditions of program covers from past years, half of which contained offensive depictions of Native Americans that included Dartmouth’s unofficial former mascot, the Indian. One cover showed a bulldog chasing the Native American figure up a tree, while another featured a Yale football player lighting the figure’s clothing on fire. The Athletics Department issued an apology for the programs Sunday.
The image of the cover surfaced on social media Saturday when Mary Kathryn Nagle, executive director for the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program, tweeted out a picture of the program, criticizing the “dehumanizing images of redface.”
Students’ condemnation of the cover took off after an image of it was posted on the Overheard at Yale Facebook page Sunday afternoon.
Later that day, Director of Athletics Thomas Beckett responded on behalf of Yale Athletics and issued an apology for the offensive images in a schoolwide email.
In his message to the Yale community, Beckett said that Yale Athletics was sorry for the hurt the images may have caused individuals at Yale, particularly those from Native American communities. He added the artwork, while historic, was not featured with the intention of condoning racially insensitive stereotypes.
“The program cover is offensive,” Beckett said in an email to the News. “[This was] clearly not our intent. Our public apology acknowledged this. We will continue to work with any and all members of the Yale Community to address this topic in any way possible.”
The Association of Native Americans at Yale released a statement on Facebook saying the images create a noninclusive learning environment at Yale and make it challenging to promote accurate portrayals of indigenous peoples. The group said it plans to celebrate today as Indigenous Peoples’ Day, instead of Columbus Day, which is traditionally celebrated on the second Monday in October.
“The program features the former mascot of Dartmouth College, which is officially no longer in use due to the racist stereotypes it perpetuates,” the statement said. “Studies show the damaging effects of such images on Native peoples and young people of all races. The promotion of racist mascots creates noninclusive learning environments for Native students, compounds challenges in promoting accurate portrayals of Indigenous cultures and traditions and perpetuates prejudice and discrimination against Native peoples.”
In its statement, ANAAY also thanked Yale Athletics for its apology and said they look forward to working with the athletics administration to “prevent future circulation of blatantly racist images of Indigenous peoples.”
“I think the program cover adds to the sense that students have that the University makes a number of racially insensitive decisions that makes certain groups feel unconsidered,” Onyx Brunner ’20, who posted the image of the cover on Overheard at Yale, told the News. “The people in the administration and those who oversee these decisions need to be more cognizant of what imagery would be considered painful or problematic.”
Dartmouth was originally founded as a school to educate Native American youth. Though it later abandoned this mission, the college retained the Indian as a mascot until 1974, when its trustees deemed the mascot “inconsistent with present institutional and academic objectives of the college in advancing Native American education.”
Throughout the season, the programs have included historic covers from the archives for all home games.