University of Denver Bans “Denver Boone” As Offensive

150px-Boone2This cartoon is at the center of a controversy at the University of Denver. We have previously discussed the trend to eliminate such school symbols as Chief Illini and others. Unlike some of these controversies, “Denver Boone” is not based on a tribe but is a cartoon character designed by a Walt Disney cartoonist. However, the University of Denver has voted to ban its use as offensive.

Ironically Denver Boone was a vast improvement over the original mascot. From 1867 to the early 1920s, the University of Denver was known as the “Fighting Parsons” to honor the school’s Methodist founders. In the annals of mascots, that just might be the worst. Of course, there are the Boll Weevils (University of Arkansas at Monticello), the Banana Slugs (University of California-Santa Cruz), Fighting Okra (Delta State), Artichokes (Scottsdale Community College) and of course The Fighting Pickles (North Carolina School of the Arts). (I actually like the Poets at Whittier College).

The University of Denver transitioned in 1925 to the Pioneers with obvious reference to its early settlements. That became Pioneer Pete in the 1930s — a rugged, coonskin capped trapper.

While many have called for the return of Denver Boone, as he became known, the school declared him a persona non grata. Instead, they replaced him with a red-tailed hawk known as Ruckus, which was a colossal failure.

Nevertheless, people have been a bit ambiguous why the character is racist and sexist — both objections made by some students and faculty. Chancellor Robert Coombe insisted that “Boone was a polarizing figure that did not reflect the growing diversity of the UD community, but rather was an image that many women, persons of color, international students and faculty members found difficult to relate to as defining the pioneering spirit.”

Even if the association with Daniel Boone was not optimal, it is not clear why Pioneer Pete was also rejected. Indeed, any connection between Boone and Colorado is highly speculative and he never wore a coonskin cap. Pioneer Pete would seem a more fitting name. However, it is the image and not just the Boone association that has drawn criticism as racist or sexist.

The university insists that this is simply a case of a student body developing a new sense of identity and diversity. However, the controversy has grown after the Undergraduate Student Government passed a bill on Feb. 27, 2013 to bar the use of the mascot – a move that critics insist is opposed to the wishes of the majority of students.

The University is not backing down and insists that it will not go back regardless of polls of the student body. Currently the school posted a “to be determined” mascot.

63 thoughts on “University of Denver Bans “Denver Boone” As Offensive

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  2. @bigfatmike

    I am somewhat aware of the Cobell v Salazar case, just enough to know that it was not nearly enough and the amount awarded being shared by so many will amount to but a pittance.

    And you are right when you say that fracking, gas pipelines and the KXL pipeline allowing Tar Sands Oil through our country are issues that effect all of us. My quote previous to your last response was not meant as a slap in the face but rather a recognition that if you fight for your home ground, your own back yard you are, in effect, fighting for causes that effect many tribes.

    I am going to post an article next and I want you to think about what it says. The BIA wants to buy back lands “given” to different tribes. Just as how do you ‘discover’ an occupied land how do you ‘give back’ land that was already theirs both by occupation and treaty? Notice that the BIA only wants to buy Indian lands and not those that were taken by the Dawes Act and sold to whites.

  3. @Pat

    I have not taken the time to give your remarks the consideration and response they deserve.

    But I did want acknowledge your efforts before too much time goes by.

    Briefly, I did finally watch the first short video of college age men and the discussion of eagle and goose feathers. I don’t think their activities fall anywhere near the political activities and cultural display that I mentioned.

    You provided a long list of articles and web stories of issues affect Native Americans. It occurred to me that many of them are issues that affect all of us or at the least many different communities. Gas pipe lines and fracking come to mind.

    And I am surprised that no one has mentioned the Cobell v. Salazar case regarding BIA stewardship of Native American assets. I only know of it because I used to hear short news reports on the radio. But to me it is a really fascinating window to a century of abuse by government agents who were supposed to protect the interests of Native Americans.

    Even if you were to limit your attention to just the actions of BIA during the trial and government lawyers defending the case the discussion would be worth a book in itself.

    I am still fascinated by the fact that presiding Judge Lamberth was removed supposedly because he lost his impartiality. When one considers some of the antics by BIA during the trial, I think there is at least the argument that Lamberth’s actions were measured and appropriate.

    If you are not familiar with this case you might spend some time querying the internet. It is worth a few minutes.

  4. @bigfatmike

    One last thought:

    “Each of us is put here in this time and this place to personally decide the future of humankind. Did you think the Creator would create unnecessary people in a time of such terrible danger? Know that you yourself are essential to this World. ”

    Chief Arvol Looking Horse

  5. @bigfatmike

    You have obviously given this much thought and I thank you for that but your characterization of the 1491s’ videos seems to me to be a bit skewered. In the first video you have young people celebrating their team even if a bit intoxicated. For the most part they seem sincere just uneducated. A young man paid $800.00 for what he thinks are eagle feathers and is taught to ‘Bless’ them by “Apache Mclean” who doesn’t have a drop of Indian blood in him. And all of them in both videos are not honoring their mascot because their mascot is “Swoop” who is a bird. What you don’t seem to get is that dressing up like an Indian, whether for an event like this, a costume party or halloween is as disrespectful to Indians as wearing black face to the same events. In the second video the 1491s pose the question: “Why is it all right to go to any costume party dressed like an Indian but not as Sambo?” The one thing the 1491s were not doing was embarrassing the young woman, that she did herself. But when they asked her if she would do the same thing in black face and she said no, you could see that a seed of thought had been planted, that maybe it wasn’t OK to dress up as an Indian.

    Mike you ask “I think you have raised the question how do we recognize and deal with the past.” And “But I posed what I think is a serious question. How should we recognize the people and process that did so much to shape who and what we are today?” First, quit romanticizing the indians. Second, look in the mirror and accept the fact that every square inch of this country, all of North and South and Central America was stolen from them. That atrocities occurred but more importantly are still, at this very minute occurring. From forcing KXL pipeline over sized equipment through the Nez Perce rez along the two lane highway that follows the LoLo trail that Louis & Clarke stumbled through the Rockies on to allowing a corporation to pipeline the treated sewage water to make snow on a sacred mountain in Arizona for a damned ski resort (swear to God the hoses to the snow making machines leaked and it was yellow) to poisoning the water of the Lakota with tailings from uranium mining to fracking Crow lands for oil and natural gas to the selling of alcohol just outside the Pine Ridge rez in Whiteclay Nebraska, a town of about 70 people that sells 4.6 million cans of beer a year. Realize that every tribe is under attack. Then do something to help even if it is just to sign a petition.

    But back to the original Denver Boone. I said earlier that the character was based on Daniel Boone who was a treaty breaking, murdering squatter. I’d be mightily ashamed if that was my mascot. And I am ashamed enough to know that we, the people and government of the US, kept not one treaty that we sued for.

    bigfatmike, Nick, Juliet, I challenge you to click on this link then scroll down and LOOK at the issues facing the American Indians today:

    http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2013/08/censored-on-us-border-howard-buffetts-6.html#links

  6. @Pat

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    But I posed what I think is a serious question. How should we recognize the people and process that did so much to shape who and what we are today?

    I don’t think that there are easy or simple answers to that question.

    And I did watch the 1491 video. I am pretty sure the 1491’s get that one wrong.

    As I understand the situation, the woman is – demonstrating- that is, publicly voicing her support for the university’s use of a mascot offensive to some Native Americans. For anyone who might not have seen the video, the woman self identifies as mixed Native American and Native American. She is wearing items and makeup that reference Native American cultural attire.

    The 1491’s seem to claim that the woman’s reference to Native American attire is analogous to black face.

    In my opinion, the 1491’s would have powerful arguments if they were only claiming that the universities mascot is analogous to black face.

    But, I think it is fair to say that the 1491’s are also claiming that the woman’s dress and makeup are also analogous to black face. That claim does not stand up to scrutiny.

    Black face, roughly, is the use of dress and makeup for entertainment in a way that belittles, demeans, disrespects or ridicules an ethnic or racial group.

    This woman is doing something very different. First of all she is advocating for a political position. And she is using reference to traditional attire to draw attention to her cultural heritage which, presumably, she believes should convince us that she special understanding and insight to this position.

    We might reasonably disagree with this woman’s political position. I have no doubt that the 1491’s do disagree with her.

    But to my mind anyone has a right to call upon their cultural heritage when they advocate for a political position.

    Our cultural heritage might provide us with values that we use to identify the positions we defend.

    Our cultural heritage may give us the strength to persevere and defend those political objectives in the face of criticism and adversity.

    And, to me at least, it is appropriate to use cultural references, including in the form of dress and other physical items, to call attention to our cause and claim credibility for our support of that cause.

    An example of the use of cultural reference might be a Tea Party person who wears knee britches and a powdered wig to attract attention as they argue the constitution. I am emphatically not a Tea Party person. But I would never mistake their use of traditional dress as analogous to black face.

    It is always a bit risky to suggest a situation that involves a group of which you are not a clearly part. Some one can always criticize even the best efforts and intentions. Nevertheless, I can imagine a mixed ethnic group demonstrating to support voting rights by marching to the Washington Monument with some members wearing dress typical of the 1850’s and some wearing or carrying slave chains. To my mind that would be a power evocation of the past to demand change in the present. I don’t think I could ever confuse that with black face.

    This woman has clearly chosen to use attire that references her cultural heritage. She is, in effect, claiming that her cultural heritage gives her special understanding of this situation. Apparently she wants to convince us that her special understanding illuminates this situation and leads to the right answer.

    We might reasonably disagree with her political position.

    But no one can reasonably criticize her use of references to her cultural heritage to support her position.

    The 1491’s have some powerful arguments to make. But in criticizing this woman they call into question their judgment and credibility. They seem to be saying either that cultural references can never have a legitimate use, or that they are the ones who can determine who is allowed to use cultural references.

    I, for one, cannot agree that cultural references are always wrong. Cultural references to support a political position are an example of a powerful application to further discussion.

    And I could never agree that any one person or group has a right to determine who may make legitimate use of a cultural reference.

    The simple answer is that sometimes cultural reference is analogous to black face. But sometimes cultural references has a powerful and appropriate role to play in our political discussions.

    Unfortunately the 1491’s have not helped us make that important distinction.

  7. bigfatmike, a couple of things. You quoted me: “I find this new character .disgusting not adorable. But for you who want to hide your heads in the sand and continue to believe that “we stole this country fair and square””

    Then you said “I think you have raised the question how do we recognize and deal with the past.”

    What makes you think that the theft is still not going on on a daily basis today? That it is not just the past but the present? Try going to CENSURED NEWS dot com and see that on a daily, monthly and yearly basis that this is true,

    Again you quote me “maybe your Creator will someday set you straight.” And then say: “Or did you mean the creator would send them to hell – for an opinion?”

    What I meant was that maybe, just maybe, after death Creator might set you straight.

    The second video I posted by the 1491s, who make their points through comedy was made by members of the Ute tribe. The third was the 1491s who went to a costume party in black face and received great derision. Most of the video is verbal with no images. Not until the last few seconds do they show a young woman that is half Navajo and half African-American and ask her a question that makes her think. These are short videos.

    I know 45 minutes is a lot to ask anyone to watch but I urge you to watch “The Other One Percent.’ It might change your perspective.

  8. “maybe your Creator will someday set you straight.”

    Since the worst is that people have not taken all the facts into consideration and have mis judged the situation, presumably the creator would ‘set them straight’ by engaging them in thoughtful discussion and attempt to convince them to reevaluate their opinion?

    Or did you mean the creator would send them to hell – for an opinion?

  9. “I find this new character .disgusting not adorable. But for you who want to hide your heads in the sand and continue to believe that “we stole this country fair and square””

    I think you have raised the question how do we recognize and deal with the past.

    Images of Native Americans are problematical as has been pointed out by many before.

    And images of European settlers are objectionable because they ‘stole this country’.

    So is there any way to recognize the people who created the conditions that have lead to the what we have now?

  10. What is the Tink Tinker video? Anything to do with Tinker v. Des Moines, Iowa supreme Court case and the Tinker family?

    How does the Creator set us straight? Send us to Hell or Limbo? I heard that Limbo was a suburb of Saint Louis called Florissant.

    Why would a person wrap a dead raccoon skin around his head like that?

    • “Why would a person wrap a dead raccoon skin around his head like that?”

      Aside from being thrifty and warm in winter, a raccoon skin hat lets the right people know that you have arrived.

      Very cool indeed – if you are eight and have an appreciation for Fess Parker movies.

  11. “This cartoon is at the center of a controversy at the University of Denver. We have previously discussed the trend to eliminate such school symbols as Chief Illini and others. Unlike some of these controversies, “Denver Boone” is not based on a tribe but is a cartoon character designed by a Walt Disney cartoonist. However, the University of Denver has voted to ban its use as offensive.”

    Again, a cartoon character “designed by a Walt Disney cartoonist” is designed after Disney’s almost completely fictional character Daniel Boone. Probably most of you are too young to remember the Disney series. where he played a hero but was really just another treaty breaking, murdering squatter on land that was not his. Oh, yeah, that is the American way. I find this new character .disgusting not adorable. But for you who want to hide your heads in the sand and continue to believe that “we stole this country fair and square” maybe your Creator will someday set you straight. One can only hope.

    Nick, if you have any interest in history I again urge you to listen to the Tink Tinker video.

  12. Another type of burrowing clam is the razor clam. Some call it a razor fish, but it is really a clam, smaller than the geoduck. This is how it it prepared for cooking:

  13. The best thing about a geoduck, Darren?

    They are real tasty.

    You haven’t had clam chowder until you’ve had it made on the beach with freshly caught geoducks.

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