Osceola rides again Saturday night, and this time the Sooners will be in the house, and it remains quite the spectacle. As cool-looking mascots go, Osceola is hard to beat. The Seminole tribal dress. The war paint. The spear. Renegade, the spotted Appaloosa.
But not all Seminoles will feel pride. David Narcomey will be disgusted. He has referred to Osceola as a “minstrel show.”
“Absolutely haven't changed my stance one bit,” said Narcomey, who in 2005 condemned the NCAA's approval of Florida State's use of the Seminole name and Osceola mascot.
Narcomey is an American Indian activist who considers Native symbols and imagery demeaning on sports teams. He wants them removed.
“Presidents, faculty, board of trustees, owners of team really do not understand the harmful effects,” Narcomey said.
Neither do other American Indians, which is part of the problem. Some polls have said as many as 90 percent of Natives don't mind the use of Indian nicknames and mascots.
Narcomey doesn't believe he can change minds with a rousing speech or a clever phrase.
“I can't say it in five minutes,” Narcomey said. “The harmful effects, the psychological effects that promote low self-esteem, low self-image. It promotes racism, cultural discrimination, religious discrimination.
“You have to discuss all the aspects of how it impacts Native kids and Native families.”
Narcomey is a Bristow business owner and a member of the Seminole Tribe of Oklahoma's general council.
The NCAA approves Chief Osceola because the Seminole Tribe of Florida endorses the use of Osceola.
The Florida Seminoles and the Oklahoma Seminoles were divided by the Indian Removal Act of 1830, with most Seminoles forced to relocate to Indian Territory. But some Seminole resistance fighters, called the unconquered Seminoles, survived over the next decades, retained the culture and in 1957 formally became their own tribe.
The Oklahoma Seminoles, based in Wewoka, have not taken a side on Osceola. Efforts to reach Chief Leonard Harjo failed. But tribal communications director Dustin Gray said, “Our stance is, we don't really have a stance. We stay out of it.”
Narcomey said the Seminoles can't stay out of it, since the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma as a group condemned Indian mascots.
In 2005, the NCAA did the same, with a variety of consequences for those who persist, but the NCAA allowed for exceptions if local Native groups endorse the imagery.
The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation supports Central Michigan University's use of “Chippewas” as a nickname. The Ute tribe supports the University Utah using “Utes” as a nickname. And the Florida Seminoles endorse Osceola as Florida State's icon.
Narcomey lived in Florida from 1991 through 2004 and says the Florida Seminoles support the FSU mascot for reasons of money, apathy and lack of awareness.
Narcomey figures the Seminoles want to pacify Florida State alums in the state legislature — “Just don't pass any laws that go against our casinos.” But he also said it's a lack of education. And “maybe if they do know, they don't care.”
Approximately 65 percent of the original Indian sports nicknames have been changed. Stanford, Marquette, Miami-Ohio. In Oklahoma, Southern Nazarene, Southeastern State, Oklahoma City U. and Northeastern State.
And Narcomey still believes he can change minds with his message.
“Those that have heard it have changed their stance,” Narcomey said. He remembers conducting a Jacksonville workshop, and an 80-year-old Florida State fan came up and said, “Mr. Narcomey, you are not going to change my mind.”
Two hours later, Narcomey said, she approached him and said, “I apologize. I didn't understand what we were doing.”
But it's going to be hard for Narcomey to make up ground without more Native support. If the Indians themselves don't mind the mascots and nicknames, why should anyone else care?
Since this issue first bubbled almost 50 years ago, Redskins has survived as the name of the NFL's Washington franchise. Redskins.
Narcomey likens it to the n-word. Yet the name lives on not just in D.C., but at Tulsa's Union High School.
If you want to debate Braves or Seminoles, OK. But Redskins is blatantly offensive. And yet it survives.
And so, too, does Osceola and his spear and Florida State's tomahawk chop, to much revelry in the state of Florida and its Seminole Tribe, and to much chagrin from a certain Seminole in Oklahoma.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including AM-640 and FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.