August 17, 2005
FSU worked to cultivate better image of Seminole
BY AARON DESLATTE
TALLAHASSEE - Christine McCall had just come home from visiting Florida
State University's campus when members of her tribe approached her.
"Everybody was asking me about how I felt about the use of the name," said
the 18-year-old freshman from Hollywood, who is one of seven Seminole
Indians enrolled on scholarship at FSU. "They were just asking me what I
thought about it, and if FSU was using us in a bad way."
McCall confessed she hadn't thought much about images like the famous
Seminole half-blood Chief Osceola driving a flaming spear into the turf at
Doak Campbell Stadium before football games.
But among elders of the 3,100-member Seminole Tribe of Florida, the
sentiment was stronger. "They've never been up there, and they don't really
know what the opinion is. Are they respecting us, or are they just using us
for a mascot like another school would use an animal?" McCall said.
That question drove the NCAA this month to impose a policy punishing
Florida State and 17 other schools for using "hostile and abusive" American
Indian mascots. Florida State University has defended its "nearly 60-year
history of honoring the Florida Seminoles" in appealing the mascot ban.
But the relationship hasn't always been one of mutual respect.
In the 1950s, historically inaccurate Plains Indians bearing hatchets, and
Chief Fullabull, who acted drunk at basketball games and ceremonially
massacred opposing mascot effigies, were used.
Since, FSU has tried to make amends for its earliest depictions of
In the 1950s, the Seminole started showing up on campus as a cartoon design
of a Plains Indian called Sammy Seminole. When Joyotpaul Chaudhuri arrived
on campus in 1969, the political science professor was disgusted to see the
basketball team's mascot, Chief Fullabull, perform his act.
"He would come out and make a fool of himself on the floor. If they were
playing Arkansas, maybe he would get a fake pig and stab it, and blood
would go everyplace," said Chaudhuri, whose late wife, Jean Chaudhuri, was
a full-blooded Creek Indian from Oklahoma.
When Joyotpaul and Jean Chaudhuri traveled to the Seminole reservations in
South Florida, they told then-Chief Howard Tommie and tribal leaders how
the Seminole was depicted.
"They were upset," Chaudhuri recalled. "They didn't know because very few
of them came up to Tallahassee to see a basketball game." After paying the
campus a visit, Seminole leaders persuaded FSU to drop Chief Fullabull as
its mascot. Sammy Seminole disappeared from the Florida Flambeau, the
student newspaper, in 1972, according to university records. Formal
recognition from the tribe for using the name and symbols came in 1975.
In 1978, the tribe also worked with the school to develop the Chief Osceola
mascot. It wasn't until 1992 that the Tribal Council would ask FSU to
retire the image of a chief running with a hatchet. The current Seminole
images were trademarked in 1980-81.
At the request of FSU President T.K. Wetherell, the tribe passed a
resolution in June that supported the school's Seminole mascot.
In 1993, the Florida Seminoles' lobbyist, Stephen Bowers, also suggested
the tribe should get a share of FSU's trademark concessions, possibly in
the forms of scholarships, and that members should be allowed to sell arts
and crafts on campus during home games.
Now, Bowers said the tribe is satisfied with its relationship with FSU.
"As a whole, the people themselves are very much in favor of the use,"
Max Osceola, a member of the Tribal Council that governs the Florida
Seminoles, said the tribe hasn't been interested in making money off their
"If we asked, I'm sure Florida State University would work something out,"
Osceola said. "But any money we take would be money taken away from the
education of students at Florida State, so the Seminole Tribe has not asked
for any compensation."
The university has provided 13 scholarships to tribe members. Three
recognized Seminoles have graduated, the first in 1996. Tribal members
receive tickets to football games when they request them, although Max
Osceola said the Sept. 5 Miami-FSU game will be the first time he has
Wetherell said last week the projects -- from building a chickee village in
the fall near campus, raising money for a Seminole museum to developing a
course on Seminole history -- were in keeping with the school's traditions
of spreading awareness of the tribe.
"We've only gone back in a more public manner in the last four years as the
NCAA has come to some of these statements they've come to," Wetherell said.
"This is not a last-minute deal that we've cooked up. This has been
something that was going on when I was a student here 40 years ago.
"We have grown that relationship, there's no doubt about that."