Dartmouth’s debate over the Indian symbol wracked its campus for several decades, and the debate continues to this day. It shows that the voices that are included in conversations fundamentally impact equality and, as the case may be, inequality, in issues of representation. However, it also shows that merely including historically marginalized groups is not itself sufficient to erase longstanding stereotypes and racism. Even if their numbers remain relatively small, vocal individuals can substantially impact the experience of marginalized groups, particularly when others stand idly by, even if they disagree.
These debates over Indian symbols have been particularly contentious on college campuses, like Dartmouth’s and Stanford’s in the twentieth century, but they also continue to color conversations in a host of other arenas, from athletics to the dairy industry. Just in April of this year, Land O’Lakes erased the image of a kneeling Native American woman from its logo. However, the football team of Washington D.C. still bears an Indian mascot and derogatory name. Yet, viewpoints do not necessarily track with identity on a national scale; members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida have repeatedly voted to maintain Florida State University’s Seminole mascot. Although it may seem that, because some college campuses removed their Indian mascots decades ago, these issues are largely resolved, that is simply not the case.