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7 Schools That Dropped Their Native American Nicknames

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The debate over Native American sports mascots has roiled for decades. While pro teams like the Washington Redskins are standing firm, change is brewing in the lower tiers. Over the past three decades, 28 high schools nicknamed “Redskins” have ushered in a new mascot. The last college with the moniker dropped it over a decade ago. Here are some stories of schools that dropped their Native American nicknames and mascots.

1. Cooperstown High School, New York

For nine decades, the quaint upstate New York town was home of the Redskins, but that changed in March 2013. Surprisingly, the move wasn’t sparked by an irate tribe or school board, but through a student petition. The Oneida Nation was so moved by the gesture, they donated $10,000 to cover the change’s cost. The school—which is 0.32 percent Native American—now buzzes with Hawkeye pride.

2. Carthage College

Oh, the difference a space makes! Formerly the “Redmen,” Carthage’s nickname caught flak from the NCAA in 2005. So Carthage got creative—they pressed the space bar, changing from the “Redmen” to the “Red men,” a testament to their bright red jerseys. (In a bigger move, they also removed all Native American imagery from the school logo.) The NCAA gave Carthage’s new name the thumbs up.

3. Wiscasset High School, Maine

After a local Native American group complained about the school’s Redskin moniker, the board decided it was time to start fresh with Wolverines—and it didn’t win them any popularity points. Students staged a walkout, and, a year later, the boys varsity basketball team came to a home game wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the old logo. The crowd showered them with a standing ovation.  

4. Southern Nazarene College

When Miami University of Ohio became the Redhawks in 1997, South Nazarene—a small Christian liberal arts college in Oklahoma—was the only collegiate Redskin left standing. With the school’s 100-year anniversary approaching, a marketing committee suggested it was prime time to change. It proved painless. That said, students did have to briefly endure being represented by a smiling cloud. (They changed to the Crimson Storm.)

5. Dartmouth College

Although Dartmouth originated to turn Native Americans into missionaries, its unofficial Indian mascot is just a coincidence. Legend has it that in the 1920s, sports journalists started calling the Ivy League school the “Indians,” and the name stuck. Following a wave of Native American protests in the 1970s, the trustees nixed the name and logo, going with another unofficial nickname, "Big Green," and favoring mascots like “Dartmoose.” But nothing beats the fan favorite, Keggy the Keg, a humanoid keg overflowing with school spirit(s). 

6. Syracuse University

For years, ‘Cuse’s mascot was a fearsome goat. But in the 1920s, rumors swirled that the body of a 16th-century Onondaga chief had been excavated under the women’s gym. The student paper dubbed the body “Big Chief Bill Orange,” or the Saltine Warrior, and he rose to mascot fame. When the Saltine Warrior retired in 1978 after protests, a flood of bad subs followed: A roman gladiator, a Superman knockoff, a troll named “Egnaro,” and even a dude in an orange tuxedo. Finally, in 1980, Otto the plush orange captured fans’ hearts. 

7. Stanford University

Stanford sported a logo of a near cross-eyed Indian with a big nose in the 1930s. In 1972, Native American students petitioned against it. Stanford changed its mascot to the “Cardinal”—a move that confused everyone. (The name referred to the school color—not the songbird.) Stanford had run through plenty of other ideas, too: Robber Barons, Railroaders, Sequoias, Trees, Spikes, Huns, and Griffins. In 1975, the Stanford band poked fun at the wishy-washy renaming process by teasingly introducing a steaming manhole, a French fry, and a tree. Fans fell in love with the tree, and he’s been there ever since.  

BONUS: Amherst College

Although Amherst doesn’t have a Native American mascot, it has roped itself into the debate. Their mascot, Lord Jeff, is a caricature of Lord Jeffery Amherst, commander of the British Army during the French and Indian War. Amherst gets a bad rap because he approved the infamous plan to give smallpox infested blankets to Native Americans. In his letters, Amherst wrote that he wanted to “bring about the total Extirpation of those Indian Nations” and to “put a most Effectual Stop to their very Being.” He even suggested hunting Indians with dogs. The debate is ongoing, and a handful of townies have even suggested changing the locale’s name. 

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15 Confusing Plant and Animal Misnomers
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People have always given names to the plants and animals around us. But as our study of the natural world has developed, we've realized that many of these names are wildly inaccurate. In fact, they often have less to say about nature than about the people who did the naming. Here’s a batch of these befuddling names.

1. COMMON NIGHTHAWK

There are two problems with this bird’s name. First, the common nighthawk doesn’t fly at night—it’s active at dawn and dusk. Second, it’s not a hawk. Native to North and South America, it belongs to a group of birds with an even stranger name: Goatsuckers. People used to think that these birds flew into barns at night and drank from the teats of goats. (In fact, they eat insects.)

2. IRISH MOSS

It’s not a moss—it’s a red alga that lives along the rocky shores of the northern Atlantic Ocean. Irish moss and other red algae give us carrageenan, a cheap food thickener that you may have eaten in gummy candies, soy milk, ice cream, veggie hot dogs, and more.

3. FISHER-CAT

Native to North America, the fisher-cat isn’t a cat at all: It’s a cousin of the weasel. It also doesn’t fish. Nobody’s sure where the fisher cat’s name came from. One possibility is that early naturalists confused it with the sea mink, a similar-looking creature that was an expert fisher. But the fisher-cat prefers to eat land animals. In fact, it’s one of the few creatures that can tackle a porcupine.

4. AMERICAN BLUE-EYED GRASS

American blue-eyed grass doesn’t have eyes (which is good, because that would be super creepy). Its blue “eyes” are flowers that peek up at you from a meadow. It’s also not a grass—it’s a member of the iris family.

5. MUDPUPPY

The mudpuppy isn’t a cute, fluffy puppy that scampered into some mud. It’s a big, mucus-covered salamander that spends all of its life underwater. (It’s still adorable, though.) The mudpuppy isn’t the only aquatic salamander with a weird name—there are many more, including the greater siren, the Alabama waterdog, and the world’s most metal amphibian, the hellbender.

6. WINGED DRAGONFISH

This weird creature has other fantastic and inaccurate names: brick seamoth, long-tailed dragonfish, and more. It’s really just a cool-looking fish. Found in the waters off of Asia, it has wing-like fins, and spends its time on the muddy seafloor.

7. NAVAL SHIPWORM

The naval shipworm is not a worm. It’s something much, much weirder: a kind of clam with a long, wormlike body that doesn’t fit in its tiny shell. It uses this modified shell to dig into wood, which it eats. The naval shipworm, and other shipworms, burrow through all sorts of submerged wood—including wooden ships.

8. WHIP SPIDERS

These leggy creatures are not spiders; they’re in a separate scientific family. They also don’t whip anything. Whip spiders have two long legs that look whip-like, but that are used as sense organs—sort of like an insect’s antennae. Despite their intimidating appearance, whip spiders are harmless to humans.

9. VELVET ANTS

A photograph of a velvet ant
Craig Pemberton, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

There are thousands of species of velvet ants … and all are wasps, not ants. These insects have a fuzzy, velvety look. Don’t pat them, though—velvet ants aren’t aggressive, but the females pack a powerful sting.

10. SLOW WORM

The slow worm is not a worm. It’s a legless reptile that lives in parts of Europe and Asia. Though it looks like a snake, it became legless through a totally separate evolutionary path from the one snakes took. It has many traits in common with lizards, such as eyelids and external ear holes.

11. TRAVELER'S PALM

This beautiful tree from Madagascar has been planted in tropical gardens all around the world. It’s not actually a palm, but belongs to a family that includes the bird of paradise flower. In its native home, the traveler’s palm reproduces with the help of lemurs that guzzle its nectar and spread pollen from tree to tree.

12. VAMPIRE SQUID

Drawing of a vampire squid
Carl Chun, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This deep-sea critter isn’t a squid. It’s the only surviving member of a scientific order that has characteristics of both octopuses and squids. And don’t let the word “vampire” scare you; it only eats bits of falling marine debris (dead stuff, poop, and so on), and it’s only about 11 inches long.

13. MALE FERN & LADY FERN

Early botanists thought that these two ferns belonged to the same species. They figured that the male fern was the male of the species because of its coarse appearance. The lady fern, on the other hand, has lacy fronds and seemed more ladylike. Gender stereotypes aside, male and lady Ferns belong to entirely separate species, and almost all ferns can make both male and female reproductive cells. If ferns start looking manly or womanly to you, maybe you should take a break from botany.

14. TENNESSEE WARBLER

You will never find a single Tennessee warbler nest in Tennessee. This bird breeds mostly in Canada, and spends the winter in Mexico and more southern places. But early ornithologist Alexander Wilson shot one in 1811 in Tennessee during its migration, and the name stuck.

15. CANADA THISTLE

Though it’s found across much of Canada, this spiky plant comes from Europe and Asia. Early European settlers brought Canada thistle seeds to the New World, possibly as accidental hitchhikers in grain shipments. A tough weed, the plant soon spread across the continent, taking root in fields and pushing aside crops. So why does it have this inaccurate name? Americans may have been looking for someone to blame for this plant—so they blamed Canada.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.

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18 Tea Infusers to Make Teatime More Exciting
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Make steeping tea more fun with these quirky tea infusers.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

1. SOAKING IT UP; $7.49

man-shaped tea infuser
Amazon

That mug of hot water might eventually be a drink for you, but first it’s a hot bath for your new friend, who has special pants filled with tea.

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2. A FLYING TEA BOX; $25.98

There’s no superlaser on this Death Star, just tea.

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3. SPACE STATION; $9.99

astronaut tea infuser
ThinkGeek

This astronaut's mission? Orbit the rim of your mug until you're ready to pull the space station diffuser out.

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4. BE REFINED; $12.99

This pipe works best with Earl Grey.

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5. A RIBBITING OPTION; $10.93

This frog hangs on to the side of your mug with a retractable tongue. When the tea is ready, you can put him back on his lily pad.

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6. ‘TEA’ ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE; $5.95

It’s just like the movie, only with tea instead of Beatles.

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7. SHARK ATTACK; $6.99

shark tea infuser
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This fearsome shark patrols the bottom of your mug waiting for prey. For extra fun, use red tea to look like the end of a feeding frenzy.

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8. PERFECT FOR A RAINY DAY; $12.40

This umbrella’s handle conveniently hooks to the side of your mug.

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9. AN EGGCELLENT INFUSER; $5.75

cracked egg tea infuser
Amazon

Sometimes infusers are called tea eggs, and this one takes the term to a new, literal level.

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10. FOR SQUIRRELY DRINKERS; $8.95

If you’re all right with a rodent dunking its tail into your drink, this is the infuser for you.

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11. HANGING OUT; $12.85

This pug is happy to hang onto your mug and keep you company while you wait for the tea to be ready.

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12. ANOTHER SHARK OPTION; $5.99

If you thought letting that other shark infuser swim around in the deep water of your glass was too scary, this one perches on the edge, too busy comping on your mug to worry about humans.

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13. RUBBER DUCKIE, YOU’RE THE ONE; $8.95

Let this rubber duckie peacefully float in your cup and make teatime lots of fun.

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14. DIVING DEEP; $8.25

This old-timey deep-sea diver comes with an oxygen tank that you can use to pull it out.

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15. MAKE SWEET TEA; $10

This lollipop won't actually make your tea any sweeter, but you can always add some sugar after.

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16. A SEASONAL FAVORITE; $7.67

When Santa comes, give him some tea to go with the cookies.

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17. FLORAL TEA; $14.99

Liven up any cup of tea with this charming flower. When you’re done, you can pop it right back into its pot.

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18. KEEP IT TRADITIONAL; $7.97

If you’re nostalgic for the regular kind of tea bag, you can get reusable silicon ones that look almost the same.

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