Native Americans take a stand at the Super Bowl

University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

Arizona’s Native American tribes want a piece of the Super Bowl.

“What better time to advertise than the Superbowl?” said Debra Krol, senior communications manager at the Heard Museum and member of the Xolon Salinan tribe.

The message many tribes want to leave behind in one of the world’s largest media shows is both cultural and political.

Phoenix’s Heard Museum, which promotes American Indian art and history, is holding a discussion, “Indigenous Stereotypes in Sports” on Friday.

“There is no greater time to discuss these issues than now,” said Krol. The symposium will cover topics regarding Native American Indian stereotypes seen in society and especially sports.

The ongoing controversy over the NFL’s Washington Redskins will be center stage.

The National Congress of American Indians created “Take It Away”, an online advertisement for the ongoing campaign to have the mascot changed. The advertisement shows a play from 2012 where Washington’s quarterback Robert Griffin III rushed to the end zone to complete a touchdown. In the advertisement released the week before the Super Bowl, the Redskin’s team logo has been removed from all of the team’s helmets and field as the closing statement reads, “Take it away and it’s still Washington football.”

“I do believe that racism still exists in society and seems to show its self more when a mascot is closely related to native people in culture.”

According to Thomas, the NFL can be better understanding of Native American Indian culture by officially announcing they are not in support of racist and offensive team names and encouraging those offending team owners and teams to change their mascots and logos.

Other Native American Indian tribes of Arizona plan to use this occasion to raise awareness for the diversity of their culture. Arizona has the third largest American Indian population in the country, after California and New York.

“We see the Super Bowl as a great opportunity to communicate and educate our Non-native relatives, neighbors, and visitors from across this nation,” said Donovan Hanley, Arizona American Indian Tourism Association President and member of the Navajo tribe.

The AAITA is hosting the Indian Festival for three days before the game at Scottsdale. Hanley expects more than 20,000 people to attend.

The 22 self-governing tribes of Arizona will be represented with traditional song and dance, demonstrations, live entertainment and a tour and travel area in which visitors can visit seven on-site villages that represent the tribal nations of Arizona.                                                           

Indian Festival advertisement (Photo by: Arizona American Indian Tourism Association)
Indian Festival advertisement (Photo by: Arizona American Indian Tourism Association)

“We look forward to our Arizona people showcasing what’s in their ‘backyard’ and what more there is to show their family and friends,” Hanley said.

“Our message collectively is: ‘Welcome to the Southwest, Welcome to the Native Arizona!’ We are proud of our culture, land and heritage. Experience our hospitality, and explore our lands time and time again.”



Megan Zamiska is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *