Florida State’s student government passed a resolution that would discourage Seminoles fans from wearing Native American headdresses at sporting events and is asking the university administration to consider wearing headdresses be viewed as a violation of the student code of conduct.
In a document obtained by FSView, the resolution states, that “the wearing of any Native American headdresses shall no longer be permitted into athletic arenas at FSU,” and was voted in by a 27-4 margin with five abstaining.
The SGA said it passed the resolution because many of the headdresses worn at athletic events are representative of other tribes – in particular Plains tribes like the Sioux – and not the Seminoles.
Part of the resolution reads that the Senate “does not condone the wearing of headdresses because it inaccurately depicts the culture of the Seminole Tribe.”
University spokesperson Browning Brooks said the administration will give the issue “careful thought and consider some ideas to promote additional cultural sensitivity by our students and fans.” Browning said the resolution is a “very thoughtful and reasonable request. We appreciate the motivation behind it, as well as the tone.”
Even if the administration decided to add the headdress issue to the code of conduct, enforcing it could be difficult because of concerns that it might violate students’ First Amendment right to free speech.
With university president T.K. Wetherell threatening a lawsuit, in 2005 the NCAA removed the Seminoles from a list of Native American mascots banned from its championships because of the support of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
Florida State’s appeal to the NCAA included a story from the Palm Beach Post that revealed the principal chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma – the group the NCAA said was opposed to Florida State’s use of the Seminole name – did not have a problem with the use of Native American nicknames and symbols.
A motion in by the Oklahoma nation to denounce the use of Native American nicknames and images in sports and other events failed by an 18-2 vote.
“We feel like it gives the type of recognition that allows people to identify with the name Seminoles,” Ken Chambers, the principal chief of the Oklahoma nation, told the Post at the time. “As far as the mascot itself, it is not degrading to us. It is not humiliating.”
The NCAA told the Post it was not aware of the Seminole Nation’s stance.
The outfits, including headdresses, worn over the years by Chief Osceola have been handmade by members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. The university considers Osceola and Renegade, the horse he rides, as “symbols” and not mascots.
Florida State is one of four schools where the NCAA has approved the use of a Native American name and imagery, the others being Central Michigan University (Chippewas), Utah (Utes) and Mississippi College (Choctaws).