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Harjo: Indian people have no word for 'mascot'

"But, here is something I offer at the risk of creating a new culture myth and sending non-Indian linguists scrambling. It seems that we really have no word for ''mascot.''

That is, in the few Native American languages I've surveyed, there are no words or concepts for ''mascot.'' For my survey, I asked Native language experts if there is a word for mascot in their heritage language.

''There's no word in Tsistsistas [Cheyenne] for mascot,'' said Dr. Henrietta Mann, who is Cheyenne and a leading Native educator. ''The closest concept we have to 'mascot' is 'pet,' but that's not a traditional concept.''

Virginia Beavert, who is Yakama and is editing the Heritage University Yakama Language Dictionary, said that the ''Yakama people do not actually have a mascot.'' She described Coyote as culture hero, but not a mascot. ''Coyote 'Spilyay' made predictions to where certain kinds of roots, berries, medicines and other important survival foods were to grow to benefit the people. He was a trickster who made the laws.''

Dr. William Demmert, who is Tlingit (which means ''people'' or ''human beings'') of the Eagle/Wolf clan and a well-respected educator and language expert, said, ''I am not aware of any name for a mascot or pet - no such animal - animals would have been referred to as 'beings.''"

Get the Story:
Harjo: Who's making up Indian culture myths? (Indian Country Today 12/8)

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