Aug. 5, 2005
FSU President T.K. Wetherell has issued the following statement in response to action August 5 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association banning the use of American Indian mascots during NCAA championship games. In taking the action, the NCAA deemed FSU’s use of the Seminole name and symbols as “hostile or abusive,” despite the recent formal endorsement by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for their use.
* * * STATEMENT FROM FSU PRESIDENT T.K. WETHERELL * * *
Florida State University is stunned at the complete lack of appreciation for cultural diversity shown by the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s executive committee, which announced today a policy banning schools using Native American names and symbols from hosting NCAA championship events. That the NCAA would now label our close bond with the Seminole Tribe of Florida as culturally “hostile and abusive” is both outrageous and insulting.
On June 17, the Tribal Council of the Seminole Tribe of Florida spoke unequivocally of its support for Florida State University in its use of the Seminole name and related symbols. Accordingly, I intend to pursue all legal avenues to ensure that this unacceptable decision is overturned, and that this university will forever be associated with the “unconquered” spirit of the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
National surveys have shown in recent years that an overwhelming majority of Native Americans are not offended by the use of Native American names and symbols. In making its decision, the executive committee has been swayed by a strident minority of activists who claim to speak for all Native Americans. It is unconscionable that the Seminole Tribe of Florida has been ignored.
The rules as we understand them would have us cover the Seminole name and symbol as if we were embarrassed, and any committee that would think that is a proper and respectful treatment of Native Americans should be ashamed.
Florida State University thanks Seminoles for historic vote of support
Florida State University President T.K. Wetherell recently received a resolution supporting FSU’s use of the “Seminole” name when he became the first FSU president to be invited to a meeting of the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Tribal Council, the tribe’s chief governing body.
The resolution comes amid the National Collegiate Athletics Association’s scrutiny of FSU’s use of the Seminole name as well as the use of American Indian nicknames by 30 other NCAA member universities.
“We are deeply grateful to the Seminole Tribe of Florida,” Wetherell said after receiving the resolution in the meeting at the tribe’s Big Cypress Reservation.
“The message I received was clear,” Wetherell said. “As the tribe’s storied history shows the Florida Seminoles are an unconquered, sovereign and independent people. Florida State is exercising its own independent spirit in suggesting that the NCAA accept an early recommendation of its own committee and leave these decisions to each university.”
The Tribal Council’s resolution reads, in part, that the “Seminole Tribe of Florida has an established relationship with Florida State University, which includes its permission to use the name, ‘Seminole,’ as well as various Seminole symbols and images, such as Chief Osceola, for educational purposes and the Seminole Tribe of Florida wishes to go on record that it has not opposed, and, in fact, supports the continued use of the name ‘Seminole.'” The resolution also supports the use of the Seminole head logo, which is endorsed by the university.
“That they chose to go on record and formally reaffirm that they trust us to be good stewards of their name and traditions is humbling,” Wetherell said. “We will continue to treat those traditions and the Seminole name with honor and respect.”
The resolution also invites FSU “to continue their relationship and collaborate on the development of logos and nicknames that all members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida and officials and students of Florida State University can be proud of.”
The full resolution reaffirms the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s commitment and relationship with Florida State University and calls for that intent to be expressed in a letter to the FSU President’s Office.
“I’m very pleased to see this partnership put to paper,” said FSU Board of Trustees Chairman Jim Smith. “It reflects what is already in place – a longstanding, honest relationship between the university and the tribe.”
Andy Haggard, vice chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees, attended the Tribal Council meeting with Wetherell. “The respect and admiration we have for the Seminole Tribe of Florida is boundless,” Haggard said. “This is fitting and proper, and really lays the groundwork for other shared initiatives.”
Many traditions are already in place at FSU. A Seminole color guard participates in every commencement ceremony. A Seminole junior princess participates in the Homecoming parade and crowns the Homecoming princess and chief.
FSU administrators also regularly travel to Seminole reservations to recruit students to be “Seminole Scholars.” Wetherell established the scholarships, which pay 80 percent of a student’s tuition. Because of his efforts, Florida State will have four new Seminole students this fall, the most ever enrolled at one time. They will join four Seminole students currently enrolled. Three other Seminole students are alumni.
But there are other new developments, Wetherell said, including plans for master Seminole builders to construct an authentic chickee (a Seminole-style shelter) at the university’s lakeside recreation area known as the “FSU Reservation” in Tallahassee. At the meeting, Wetherell also proposed a new museum on campus, the Center for Seminole Heritage and Culture; and proposed the development of the first tribal charter school.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has almost 3,000 members living on and off six reservations in Big Cypress, Tampa, Brighton, Immokalee, Fort Pierce and Hollywood.