U of M, Cloquet school officials apologize after mascot acts deemed insensitive


Two Minnesota schools are receiving criticism from the community after incidents in which mascots at school-sponsored functions were described as offensive.

The incidents – one at the University of Minnesota, the other at Cloquet High School – both involved a mascot dressed in a way some found culturally insensitive.

At the U of M, the Minnesota Daily reports Goldy Gopher donned a sombrero and poncho as part of a "Galactic Fiesta." Some students at the event dressed in a similar manner.

At Cloquet, a pep rally in the lead-up to a playoff football game against the DeLaSalle Islanders involved a student dressing as an "Islander," wearing a paper crown, "ceremonial dress" and war paint, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Both portrayals were quickly criticized by community groups who labeled them offensive.

Such incidents have garnered more attention in recent years, especially in light of the push to change the names of sports teams, like the Washington Redskins and the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Here's a more detailed look at the incidents:

'Galactic Fiesta' event

The University of Minnesota Vice Provost and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young sent an email this week apologizing for the school-sponsored "Galactic Fiesta" on campus.

Eden Torres of the Department of Chicano and Latino Studies at the U of M told the Minnesota Daily she heard some concerns from students and faculty about the event, noting some found it offensive.

In the email, Young said student planners weren't aware the sombreros and ponchos would be considered offensive, and the U has educated them “about stereotypes, disrespectful appropriations, and the political complexities of representation.” They won't face disciplinary action, the Minnesota Daily notes.

Young finished the email writing, "We can do better. We must do better. ... We will do better."

The university has been vocal about being respectful to all students, which had some surprised such an event would be held on campus. This year, the U of M urged students to be respectful when picking a Halloween costume and was outspoken in the push to ban the use of the Washington Redskins moniker during the Vikings-Redskins game at TCF Bank Stadium earlier this month.

Some people reacted to the email on Twitter:

Pep rally mascot skit

During a skit at a pep rally to honor Cloquet High School's football team advancing to the state tournament, a student dressed up like the mascot of the opposing team, the DeLaSalle Islanders, which many found offensive to the American Indian community.

The Duluth News Tribune says during the rally, the student pretended to attack the football coach with a swimming pool noodle, before Cloquet's mascot, a Lumberjack, dragged him out of the gym.

Some people in the American Indian community were outraged by the representation, and at a school board Monday expressed their concerns, saying the people involved should be held accountable – the students reprimanded and the teachers involved fired – the Duluth news Tribune reports. Some noted that the message from the skit was that it's "OK to be violent to indigenous people," the newspaper notes.

Cloquet Superintendent Ken Scarbrough released a statement to Northland's News Center saying, "though completely unintended, the depiction of the Islander was not being sensitive to Native American culture."

He and the board said the school will continue to communicate and will use this incident as a learning tool, reports say.

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