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Florida State's Chief Osceola disgusts member of Seminole tribe of Oklahoma

by Berry Tramel Published: September 15, 2011

When Chief Osceola first planted his spear in the turf at Florida State's Doak Campbell Stadium, Sept. 16, 1978, the opponent was the Oklahoma State Cowboys. You can look it up.

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.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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