The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 9 – The Northeastern Woodlands

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The Iroquois League was an association of 5 (later 6) linguistically related Northeast Woodland tribes consisting of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora peoples. Established between the 12th and 15th centuries, the League ruled on disputes and displace their raiding tradition except when it came to their rivals. Their political cohesion made the Iroquois one of the strongest forces in 17th and 18th century northeastern North America. Played both the French and British in the fur trade as well as sided with the latter during the French and Indian War. Was severely weakened after the American Revolution.

While the Great Plains tribes are the Native Americans you tend to see in western movies, the Northeastern Woodlands tribes are the ones you see in anything relating to early American history, particularly when it applies to Jamestown, Massachusetts Pilgrims, or the French and Indian War. Stretching from southeast Canada and east of the Mississippi River to the East coast and extending south to the Ohio River, these tribes were among the first Native Americans to have contact with Europeans than anyone else which were the Vikings who visited coastal areas from Newfoundland all the way to Cape Cod. However, they didn’t stay long and left little permanent influence. Yet, English and French settlers who arrived in the 1600s introduced these Indians to the beaver fur trade and infectious European diseases (sometimes via smallpox blankets). Sure relations were friendly at first, but they quickly deteriorated in some areas such as in 17th century Massachusetts Bay where they went from the first Thanksgiving to all out King Philip’s War in only a few decades. Yet, initial rounds of European diseases resulted in some tribes losing as much as 95% of their population alone in the early 17th century even before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth (Squanto’s village being one of them). Growing European fur demand led to the New World becoming a center of colonial competitiveness between Britain and France which would eventually culminate into the French and Indian War. Intrusion and eventual domination of the fur trade led to systemic breakdown among these tribes including decline in native arts and material culture, relocation to trading centers even by risking famine, increased social stratification and personal ownership, alcoholism, STDs, increased inter-tribal warfare, increased pressure to convert to Christianity, and eventually Indian removal. By the mid-19th century, many Indian groups in this region had simply disappeared and most of those remaining had been militarily defeated and largely resettled on reservations, some of which were far from home like Oklahoma. On the other hand, there are more Indians in this region today than many people realize. Although they’re mostly acculturated many proudly maintain an Indian identity while Native Americans in both the US and Canada continue struggling for recognition, land, economic development, and sovereignty.

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At its peak in the 13th century, the Mississippian city of Cahokia is estimated to have a population of 40,000 which wouldn’t be surpassed by any US city until the late 18th century. This city was said to have covered 6 square miles and included about 120 human mounds in a variety of shapes, sizes, and functions. But it would soon be abandoned by 1300 and little is known about those who lived there. Today the Cahokia Mounds is considered the largest and most complex archaeological site north of the great Pre-Columbian cities of Mexico.

Location: East of the Mississippi River spanning from south central Canada to the East Coast and Ohio River as well as encompassing the Great Lakes.

First Peoples: Region has been inhabited for at least 12,000 years with the first residents said to come from the Southwest. However, while the archaic period began in 6000 B.C.E., most cultures didn’t become fully established until 3,000 years later due to a dramatically changing environment. The Adena culture from 800 B.C.E. to 200 flourished around Kentucky and Ohio who were known as the agricultural and pottery producing Mound Builders (since they either cremated or buried their dead in mounds). They also used copper tools and red ochre in burial customs. Then there’s the northern Hopewell culture of the Great Lakes from 300 B.C.E. to 700 who also built mounds through their dead as well as performed other complex funerary rituals. Also had stamped pottery, metal work, weaving, large population centers, and vast trade networks. Alongside them is the Mississippian from 700-1500 which was characterized by intensive agriculture, fine pottery, distinctive art themes, stockaded villages, and flat-topped pyramid mounds. Sites from the Mississippian culture include Cahokia near St. Louis whose influence extended as far north as Wisconsin as well as Fort Ancient and Monongahela Woodland in the Ohio Valley. It’s speculative whether the tribes in the Ohio and Illinois Valleys as well as the Great Lakes are descended by their prehistoric counterparts who were gone by the mid-17th century due to warfare and fast-moving epidemics. It was later said to be repopulated by historic tribes from other locations.

Environment: Has many variations in climate, landscape, and natural resources. Much of it thick deciduous and conifer forest, mountains, and wetlands with an abundance in rivers, lakes, and ocean. Flat forests and prairies predominate in the far western areas. Experiences cold winter with deep snows and is often hot and humid in the summer. High precipitation all year round.

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Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans greatly relied on agriculture, growing crops consisting of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and wild rice. Out of all of these, corn was their most important food above all.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, and fishing subsistence, agriculture, and everything in between. Crops were corn, beans, pumpkins, wild rice, sunflowers, and squash. Hunted deer, raccoon, fox, muskrat, rabbit, wolf, elk, turkey, turtles, bear, squirrel, beaver, moose, and caribou. Yet, they also hunted for whale and seals as well as fished. Gathered maple sap, honey, berries, roots, nuts, and fresh greens.

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The standard dwelling for the Iroquois was the longhouse which was made from bent saplings and covered with bark. Longhouses could be up to 20 feet wide and 200 feet long as well as divided into 6-8 two room sections, each housing a family and sharing a fire.

Housing: Algonquin peoples mostly built birch bark domed wigwams with woven mat covered walls and floors. Each usually housed one family. Summer wigwams usually tended to be smaller while structures like menstrual huts, sweat houses, and temporary brush shelters were also built. Iroquois usually built wooden longhouses that were 20 feet wide and up 200 feet long (though most were less than 100 feet) made of bark pieces over a sapling frame with vaulted roofs. These were divided into 6-8 two room sections, each housing one family and sharing a fire.

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Northeastern Native Americans tended to wear a lot of jewelry and body paint, especially the men. In fact, while most Native American men wore their hair long, Northeastern Woodlands men tended to wear mohawks with feathers in them.

Clothing: People in the region mostly wore very little during the summer. Clothing was mostly made from deerskin and other animals. Often tanned. Generally consisted of breechcloths, skirts, leggings, and moccasins. Fur robes were worn in the winter. Women usually wore overdresses and tunics. Clothes were often decorated with softened and dyed porcupine quills and/or paint. Some groups even had fringed outfits. Adornments could consist of stone and shell jewelry, tattoos, and body paint. Shaved heads and mohawks were common among some Algonquin tribes as well as feathers in hair.

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Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans often traveled on river by canoe often made from bark, animal hides, or wood. Canoe styles often depended on water conditions.

Transportation: Algonquins used swift and light birch bark canoes while the Iroquois used canoes made from elm. Small ones were used for rivers while larger ones that could fit up to 10 people were used for lakes. Most were framed with cedar and trimmed with maple. Bark was sewn on with spruce roots and caulked with pine pitch or spruce resin. Dugout canoes were used as well. Styles were also based on water conditions.

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Northeastern Woodlands was a place of violent and frequent tribal warfare that villages tended to have fortifications of dirt and fencing even before European contact (since it was a reason why the Iroquois League existed in the first place). Ritualized torture and cannibalism were both practiced.

Society: Primarily nomadic, sedentary, and everything in between. Pre-contact population density varied. But it’s possible that as many as 2 million might’ve resided there but this is a rough estimate. Increased social stratification existed but not to the extent than in the Pacific Northwest Coast or the Southeast (though they did practice slavery). Some tribes were even part of mass confederacies later on such as the Iroquois, the Powhatan, and the Illinois. Among the Iroquois, male chiefs were elected by clan leaders who were usually female. Village councils often acted in unanimity and some chiefs were stronger than others. Western tribes often had warrior organizations to perform policing activities and some women even held some formal political power such as in the Miami, Shawnee, and Potawatomi. Nevertheless, inter-tribal warfare was harsh and frequent resulting in villages being heavily fortified by fencing and reinforced with dirt. Iroquois even revered war. Ritualized torture was common among the Iroquois while cannibalism and human sacrifice existed as well. Though most captives were frequently adopted into the tribe making up for population losses. Trade was mostly localized.

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Since descent and inheritance was matrilineal, Iroquois women often owned most of the family property even after marriage and kept the children if they divorced. An Iroquois woman can initiate divorce by telling her husband to leave the dwelling with his stuff. Iroquois women were also clan leaders who chose chiefs as well. Also, during marriage, an Iroquois man resided with his wife’s family.

Family Structure: Matrilineal descent among the Iroquois while Algonquins could have either this or bilateral. Bilateral or patrilineal among those near the Great Lakes and Ohio River. Men hunted, fished, and fought, while women made pottery, made clothes, looked after children, farmed, gathered, and other housework. Iroquois women owned property that stayed within their possession even after marriage and kept the kids if they separated. Married couples often resided with the wife’s family. Some Algonquin chiefs, shamans, and other wealthy men were allowed to have more than one wife if they could afford it.

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Lacrosse perhaps originated in 1100 and was played as a ceremonial ritual by the Northeastern Woodlands Native Americans. Teams could consist between 100-1,000 men on a field that could span 1,600 feet to 1.9 miles long. Games were said to last from sunup to sundown 2-3 days straight or longer. Also, it was a rather violent bloodsport where players actually got severely injured or killed.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, dreamcatchers, peace pipes, wampum, storytelling, tobacco, war paint, pottery, basketry, beadwork, metalwork, masks, vision quests, Midewiwin, Green Corn festival, music, dance, feast of the dead, medicine dances, lacrosse, birch bark scrolls, and pictographs.

Tools and Weapons: Bows and arrows, harpoons, fish hooks and line, clubs, tomahawks, nets, hemp and basswood bags, wooden bowls and utensils, snowshoes, knives, hoes, rakes, grind sticks and stones, snares, and spears.

Notable Tribes: Iroquois, Algonquin, Mohawk, Huron, Objiwe, Abenaki, Beothuk, Miami, Massachusett, Menominee, Erie, Ho-Chunk, Patuxent, Mahican, Anishinaabeg, Monacan, Narragansett, Illinois, Mitchiganmea, Fox, Sauk, Kickapoo, Mingo, Delaware, Wampanoag, Susquehannock, Tauxenent, Tunxis, Quinnipac, Shawnee, Cayuga, Seneca, Tuscarora, Ottawa, Tutelo, Oneida, Powhatan, Podunk, Pequot, Mohegan, and Penobscot.

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The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 8 – The Great Plains

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When it comes to Native Americans in popular media, no culture area is so widely recognized as those in the Great Plains. Because Plains Indians tend to be in so many western movies, so many people tend to get the wrong impression that Plains culture was the standard way of life for North American Indians in general (save for those in the Arctic).

Out of all the indigenous peoples of North America, no culture region has been depicted in popular media more than the Native Americans from the Great Plains. Stretching from south central Canada to southeastern Texas and mostly situated between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River, this region has given us tribes that have forever been ingrained in the popular perception of Native Americans for good or ill. Let’s just say in western movies, you’re bound to either see a Plains Indian or a Native American dressed as one perhaps due to how widespread Plains culture was or how lazy the screenwriters were in their research. Some aspects that distinguish Plains culture are teepees, dependence on bison, chiefs wearing war bonnets, as well as horses. Plains Indians in movies may or may not use guns. However, such descriptions don’t apply to all the Plains tribes. Not to mention, the Plains tribes didn’t acquire horses via trade and/or raid networks with the Southwestern and Great Basin tribes. But once they got a hold of these animals, the Plains Indians integrated them in their daily lives, developed a reputation for their equestrian skill, and led to the origin of the mustang. The Plains Indians also traded guns with English and French fur trappers in the areas as well (though they were always in short supply so they still depended on bows and arrows). However, while these European imports improved their lives drastically as well as helped them expand territory, they came at a very high cost in the form of European diseases. Not only that, but their dependence on bison would later come back to bite them later in the 19th century with American westward expansion, the Transcontinental Railroad, the rise of the cattle industry, and Indian Wars. At this time, the US federal government set initiatives permitting bison market hunting in order to weaken the Plains Indians and pressure them to either move onto the reservations or starve. This resulted in the bison being hunted to almost extinction. Another major change since European contact was their growing importance on warfare not against whites but also among each other both as livelihood and a sport. Yet, when Plains Indians fought each other, casualties were usually light, attacks were usually ambushes and hit and runs, success was based on quantity pertaining to horses and other property, and highest military honors were for “counting coup” consisting of touching a live enemy.

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The Great Plains gets its name for being mostly vat flat grassland with rolling hills and valleys. However, while some areas in this region are perfectly suitable for agriculture (such as near the Mississippi), some areas aren’t (but most of it is great for ranching making it ideal bison country). Also prone to dramatic weather events like tornadoes, blizzards, and severe thunderstorms.

Location: Between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River that spans from south central Canada to southern Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

First Peoples: It’s said that the first inhabitants of this region moved there between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. The first millennium consisted of tribes with vast trading networks and complex religious practices. But as the region grew drier and less hospitable the nomadic bands slowly followed game and water eastward until by perhaps 1200 when the area was virtually empty. However, the region gradually repopulated due to a moderation of weather conditions as well as a severe drought in the Southwest.

Environment: Mostly flat grassland with many rolling hills and valleys, though not very rugged. Summers are very hot and winters are very cold. Trees are only found by rivers and other bodies of water. Average precipitation is low though there are higher levels in the east. Dramatic weather events such as blizzards, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms are regular occurrences.

Uses of the Buffalo

The Plains Indians main source of survival was the buffalo which they used for everything. This diagram from the South Dakota State Historical Society illustrates which part of the animal was used for what.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter and gatherer subsistence though some practiced agriculture as well but didn’t use irrigation. Buffalo was the primary game food source which was hunted by men surrounding the animals and herding them off a cliff into confined spaces. Also hunted other animals like elk, antelope, porcupine, prairie dogs, mountain sheep, prairie chickens, eagles, cougars, wolves, beaver, bear, and deer. More agrarian tribes in the east planted crops like corn, squash, sunflowers, plums, pemmican, prairie turnip, and other wild plants. Gathered nuts, gooseberries, chokecherries, and onions. Some even fished.

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Not all Plains tribes lived in teepees nor did all teepee dwelling tribes live in the Plains. However, the fact so many Plains Indians lived in these things has led many people to mistake the teepee as a standard Native American housing unit.

Housing: Mostly lived in teepees made from animal skins and poles. Each teepee could have 6-18 buffalo skins sewn together and stretched over a frame of poles. The average teepee was about 14 feet high and 14 feet in diameter and held between 5 to 8 people. Had an adjustable smoke hole at the top for ventilation. Less nomadic tribes also retained permanent earth lodges along rivers that could be square, rectangular, or beehive shaped. Each of these could hold up to 40 or more people.

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The warbonnet is perhaps the most iconic Native American headdress from the Great Plains. It was a worn by men in the tribe who’ve earned a great place of respect after completing so many eagle feathers for their deeds. Such feather earning deeds might include courageous acts in battle but also political and diplomatic gains or acts that have helped the community prosper. They were also worn by the tribe’s chosen political and spiritual leaders like Chief Sitting Bull pictured here. However, expect controversy whenever you see a non-native wearing one of these as a culturally appropriated fashion accessory, which many of today’s Plains Indians consider offensive to their culture. This especially goes for sports team mascots.

Clothing: Mostly made from deer, mountain sheep, and buffalo skin. Women wore a 2-piece  dress with optional sleeves. During colder weather, they wore leggings, moccasins, and buffalo robes. Men wore breechcloths and moccasins as well as a deerskin shirt, leggings, and a buffalo robe in winter. Garments decorated with fringe and quill work may reflect war honors. Wore necklaces and earrings made from bone, shell hair, or feathers, as well as tattoos. Important figures would wear elaborate feather headdresses and buffalo hats.War bonnets were sometimes worn into battle by men who’ve earned a place of great respect for the tribe as well as political and spiritual leaders.

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When moving camp, Plains Indians would often load their belongings onto a wooden frame structure known as a travois. While pre-contact Plains tribes often used dogs, they would later pulled by horses by the 19th century. This picture is of a modern travois. Note the dog would’ve been attached to something much bigger and made to drag a much heavier load.

Transportation: Used a buffalo skin and pole travois sled to carry their belongings which was pulled by dogs.

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Most of the nomadic Plains tribes tend to bands comprised of no more than 30 people at a time, mainly extended family members. Several hundred of these groups congregated together would form a tribe. And they only got together during the summer to hunt, trade, socialize, make war, raid, and perform religious ceremonies.

Society: Primarily nomadic though some could be semi-nomadic or sedentary all year round. Were not especially warlike (though this would change with European contact, but this is about pre-contact culture here. Also, some practiced ritualized torture). Shamans were said to have some degree of political and spiritual power. Trade was not as well developed there though there was a degree of sign language communication. The most fundamental unit was the extended family which could consist of up to 30 people. Bands and villages variable constituency were composed of up to several hundred people or related families, formed the tribe. Some of the more settled tribes also recognized clans and/or dual divisions. Bands only came together during the summer, uniting under much more centralized political leadership to hunt, socialize, trade, raid, make war, and perform religious ceremonies. During this time, camp police and other elite warrior societies kept order and punished offenders, especially during the hunt. During the winter, bands often separated back into their constituent families in the winter. Band or kin group chiefs were generally older men but the position was more of an honorific than authoritative. Open societies were age graded and could be entered by anyone of the proper age who could purchase admission. Social order was maintained by peer pressure.

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While Plains women didn’t wield as much political or social power as their men, they did hold enormous power in the domestic sphere. Since Plains practiced matrilineal descent, wives owned almost all the marital property and had sole custody of the kids in a divorce that she could initiate by throwing her husband’s belongings out of the teepee. By the way, frontiersman Kit Carson’s Cheyenne wife Making Out Road divorced him this way.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent. Men hunted and fought while women tanned hides, tended crops, gathered wild foods, cooked, made clothing as well as took down and erected teepees. Women had right to divorce by throwing her husband’s things out of the teepee as well as had custody of the children as well as owned the home. Though they weren’t as engaged in public political life as the coastal tribes, women still participated in advisory roles and through women’s societies. Dead were either buried in tree scaffolds or in the ground (which they cursed before burial in case someone disturbed it, just kidding).

7 Corps of Discovery at a Knife River Village, Vernon W Erickson

It’s worth noting that not all of the Great Plains tribes lived like those you’ve seen in westerns. For instance, the Mandan lived in permanent villages, built round earth houses like these, and farmed. They’re best known as one of the tribes encountered during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, storytelling, medicine bags, Great Spirit, vision quests, Sun Dance, dancing music, tobacco, incense burning, skin painting, stone pipes, common sign language, and beadwork.

Tools and Weapons: Spears, knives, bows and arrows, and clubs. Buffalo horn spoons and cups. Buffalo tail whips and buffalo water containers. Buffalo bone awls, hoes, and other tools. Buffalo sinew bowstrings and thread. Buffalo skull altars and buffalo hoof rattles.

Notable Tribes: Sioux, Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, Pawnee, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, Cree, Crow, Iowa, Kaw, Escanjaques, Mandan, Metis, Omaha, Osage, Otoe, Dakota, Lakota, Ponca, Quapaw, Nakoda, Teyas, Tonkawa, Waco, Wichita, Tsuu T’ina, Arikara, Missouria, Gros Ventre, Hidasta, Assiniboine, and Saulteaux.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 4 – The Northwest Plateau

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Known as “Hin-mah-too-yah-lat-kekt” in his native Nez Perce tongue, Chief Joseph led his Wallowa Nez Perce band during their most tumultuous period in their contemporary history. Basically, they were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands in the Wallowa Valley and relocated to the significantly reduced reservation in Lapwai, Idaho by the US federal government. The usual series of events culminated in episodes of violence led by Ned Perce resisting removal, including Joseph’s band and their Palouse tribe allies who attempted to seek political asylum in Canada. The US Army pursued them for over 1170 miles fighting retreat which would become known as the Nez Perce War. Though such resistance won him great fame and admiration, Chief Joseph would later surrender after a devastating 5 day battle in freezing conditions with no food or blankets as well as leaving the major Nez Perce leaders dead. By this time, 150 of his followers were either dead or wounded.

Between the Subarctic and Northwest Coast regions, you’ll find a small interior cultural area known as the Northwest Plateau. This region is situated in the interior of British Columbia as well as the non-coastal ranges of Washington state and Oregon with some of Idaho, Montana, and California. Topographically, you’ll find it between the Cascades and the Rockies. Nevertheless, this is an area with a very cold but semiarid climate which makes it nowhere near suitable for agriculture. However, it’s also home to 5 major volcanoes as well as 27 known to be active, which may good for soil content but not a place you’d want to live. Still, you don’t really hear much about this region except maybe when it comes to Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. But it’s not a happy tale to tell. Yet, famed Native American author Sherman Alexie also hails from this region, too, and he’s perhaps the best known native literary figure to date. Not surprisingly these Northwest Plateau tribes tended to move around a lot following various food sources. But they also lived in a prime trading location and often exchanged goods with other tribes. Oh, and they also were prolific basket weavers, relying on many local fibrous plants to make them.

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The Northwest Plateau may have its share of plants and waterways. But its generally rough terrain, high elevation, and semiarid but cold climate don’t make it ideal for a sedentary agricultural lifestyle. Is also home to a lot of volcanoes, including Mount Saint Helens.

Location: Area between the Cascade, Sierra Nevada, and Rocky Mountains that covers central and southern British Columbia, northern Idaho, western Montana, eastern Washington state, eastern Oregon, and northeastern California.

First Peoples: Region has been continuously inhabited for 10,000 years and save for the grinding stone and the bow and arrow, way of life remained mostly unchanged until the 18th century.

Environment: Consists of rivers, lakes, mountainous evergreen forests, and grassy valleys in the Canadian area with heavy rainfall. The US area is semiarid. Though summers are hot, winters are long and cold. Elevation ranges from 5,000 feet to 14,000 feet and is home to 27 active volcanoes as well as Mount St. Helens.

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Like their Pacific Northwest neighbors, salmon consisted of a major part of the Northwest Plateau peoples’ diet. In eh summer, Pacific salmon would swim up river, leading the men to trap the fish. Once caught the salmon would be smoked on a fire, stored underground, or boiled in hot water for oil.

Subsistence: Hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Fish were a main staple in their diets (particularly salmon) along with roots and berries. Also hunted deer, elk, caribou, antelope, mountain sheep, bear, rabbit, squirrels, marmot, beaver, raccoon, porcupine, and other small game. Another major staple were Camas lily bulbs which were dug up (though the white ones are known to be poisonous).

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The primary winter dwelling for the Northwest Plateau people was the pit house. These would consist of hole being dug into the ground with an earthen roof over a wooden frame. Entrance way was through a wooden ladder.

Housing: Pit houses were primary winter residences that were mostly built below ground with an entry via ladder on the roof that could either be flat or domed shaped. Several families lived in these houses while the chief’s could be twice as large. And these pit houses during the winter could sometimes be connected with tunnels. For summer shelter, some would reside in teepees, especially if they lived near the Plains. But unlike their Plains neighbors, they mostly used bulrush reed mat floors. Another shelter was the Tule mat lodge that were essentially large, oblong shaped teepees and constructed with the same materials. Lean-tos would also be constructed from poles and tule brush mats and were very temporary. Sweat lodges were built from grass and earth covering a wooden frame. Those who lived around the Lower Columbia lived in plank longhouses that could be 20-60 feet long and 14-20 feet wide (with each village there consisting about 5-20). These were built over a pit that was 4-5 feet deep and roughly the same size as the dwelling.

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While clothing among the Northwest Plateau Native Americans can consist of the standard buckskin, braids, and beads you’d associate with native culture, the women were also known to wear the distinguishing basket hats. Also, both sexes had braided pigtails (or at least the women).

Clothing: Generally made from bark, grass, animal skins, and fur. Men and women wore breechcloth aprons, ponchos, and moccasins. Men wore shirts while women donned dresses or skirts. Men donned fur leggings in winter while women’s were of hemp. Ornaments were made from shell and bone while beads were derived from soapstone. Clothes were also painted. Headdresses were used to represent a person’s status within the community with the most elaborate being made from feathers and beads. Women were also well known for wearing basket hats. Sometimes the leaders wore feather headdresses. Both sexes left their hair long, sometimes in two braids.

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Pre-contact Northwest Plateau transportation was mainly by canoe if not on foot. These would be made from bark, dugout wood, or animal skins. Once horses were introduce, people in this region would use them, too.

Transportation: Water transport consisted of dugout, animal skin, and bark canoes.

Society: Largest estimated pre-contact population is said to be around 50,000. Primarily nomadic with most groups following regular migratory routes to obtain foods at their greatest productivity to both meet immediate need, build surplus for winter, and trade (the largest being at the Dalles and Celilo Falls, at the head of the Columbian Gorge). Villages were politically autonomous and village chief authority lay more in their ability to persuade and adjudicate than in their power to make rules and enforce decisions. Both men and women can be chiefs of many bands though family chiefdoms were usually inherited. Specialized leaders like salmon and war chiefs only exercised leadership on special occasions. Only the far western groups practiced hereditary slavery and a caste system like the Chinook with the upper castes practicing social isolation. However, there was always a reluctance to engage in warfare.

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Plateau area Chinook tribes were known to head bind their own children’s heads to create a pointed appearance. However, contrary to popular belief, the Flatheads were called such by their neighbors because they didn’t practice this.

Family Structure: Most people married outside their own village and many of these marriage networks survived after a spouse’s death as widows and widowers often married their spouse’s sibling afterwards. Men hunted, fished, as well as had a greater voice in politics, diplomacy, and military affairs. Women, meanwhile cooked, gathered plants, and tended to young children. However, both men and women were considered socially and economically equal in every way. Some Chinook Indians in the area were known for subjecting their kids to cranial deformation. Lower Columbia tribes buried their dead in raised canoes with all their worldly possessions and never spoke of the deceased again by name for fear of summoning a ghost. Boys from 5-10 were subject to a whipping ceremony in order to prevent sickness during the winter months.

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The Northwest Plateau is well known of their art in fine beadwork, carvings, quillwork, and basketry. Like Native Americans from other cultural areas, such art was part of their every day lives.

Practices: Grass baskets, animism, shamanism, bone carving, controlled burning, vision quests, music, dance, rock painting, weaving, quillwork, and beadwork.

Tools and Weapons: Cordage, nets, bow and arrow, spears, clubs, rawhide and wooden slat armor, weirs, deadfall traps, slings, fish hooks and lines, pestles, snowshoes, a variety of knives, and mauls. Tule bulrush was used by these people for almost everything from mats, bedding, nets, rope, house coverings, flooring, and corpse shrouds. Coiled baskets of spruce and cedar root were used for household utensils, water and burden containers, cooking vessels, drinking cups, cradles, and numerous other purposes.

Notable Tribes: Chinook, Interior Salish, Nez Perce, Walla Walla, Yakama, Cayuse, Spokane, Kalapuya, Flathead, Kalispel, Nicola, Nlaka’pamux, Methow, Molala, Palus, Upper Cowlitz, Umatilla, Okanagan, Sanpoli, Wenatchi, Kutenai, Tenino, Fort Klamath, Chelan, Entiat, and Coeur d’Alene.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 3 – The Pacific Northwest Coast

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The Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest Coast could just as well be called the “totem pole people” due to their best known art form. However, these monumental structures were said to symbolize or commemorate cultural beliefs recounting familiar legends, clan lineages, or notable events. They may have also served as welcome signs for village visitors, mortuary vessels for deceased ancestors, or as a means to ridicule someone. The complexity and symbolic meanings of totem poles, their placement and importance lies in the observer’s knowledge and connection to these figures’ meanings.

Though the Pacific Northwest Coast is only a narrow stretch from southern Alaska all the way to the northern reaches of California, it’s a region with and abundance of natural resources that these hunter-gatherer tribes usually stayed in one place. It’s no wonder that it was the most densely populated cultural area in Canada before European contact. Nevertheless, the Pacific Northwest Coast is best known for their totem poles and their distinctive art that you might instantly recognize. Their art is also seen on almost everything, including their large cedar plank houses. Because since these people lived in a temperate coastal rainforest, they didn’t need to spend a lot of time like other native peoples did, searching for food so they won’t starve to death. And since they lived in one place all the time, they had plenty of leisure time to kill. These Native Americans also had rather sophisticated societies based on clans and class systems as well as a special centrality on salmon. But it’s not the only food they eat, yet it received a special ceremony when it’s in season that continues today. Then there’s the tradition of potlatch which was a highly complex event of social, ceremonial, and economic importance. There a chief would bestow highly elaborate gifts to visiting peoples in order to establish his power and prestige and by accepting these gifts, visitors conveyed their approval of the chief. There were also great displays of conspicuous consumption such as burning articles or throwing things into the sea, purely as displays of the chief’s great wealth. You’d even have dancers put on elaborate dances and ceremonies which was considered an honor to watch. Still, these events were held on special occasions like the confirmation of a new chief, coming of age, tattooing or piercing ceremonies, initiation of a secret society, marriages, a chief’s funeral, or battle victories.

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Because of the dense resource rich waters and rainforests along with a pleasant climate, the people of the Pacific Northwest Coast had an easier time than Native Americans in other regions. After all, most of them were hunter-gatherer tribes who usually stayed put.

Location: Along the coast starting from southern Alaska through British Columbia, Washington state, Oregon, and northern California.

First Peoples: First humans are said to enter the region at least 10,000 years ago via the Columbia River in the US Pacific Northwest. Evidence in southern Alaska and British Columbia suggests the early inhabitants existed at a basic subsistence level for 5,000 years until 3000 B.C.E. Earliest sedentary villages appeared in 700 B.C.E. with social ranking, woodworking, and regional art shortly thereafter. However, some areas in the US Pacific Coast along Washington state and Oregon continued in basic subsistence mode until possibly as late as 500.

Environment: Consists of dense temperate zone rainforests, rivers, islands, and oceans with abundant natural resources all year long. Climate is mild and rainfall is heavy that includes fierce winter storms and heavy fog. Trees are unusually tall and thick. Springs and glaciers usually flow into rivers that run to the coast.

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While Pacific Northwest Coast Native Americans had a varied diet, there was no food source more central to them than salmon. When salmon travel up rivers to spawn, they would literally catch thousands of them that could feed their families for a year.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, or fisher subsistence. Salmon was the most important food for the Indians in this region. However, they also consumed halibut, eulachon (candlefish), smelt, herring, and sturgeon as well as shellfish, seals, and whales. They also hunted elk, bear, deer, mountain goat, turtles, and some land mammals as well as gathered berries and roots. Food was generally eaten fresh, grilled, or boiled in a basket with hot rocks or steamed or baked over a pit oven.

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Your standard Pacific Northwest Coast dwelling was the cedar plank house w which could be up to 50-150 feet long and 20-60 feet wide. Each plank house could be home to as many as 30 people.

Housing: Mostly lived in plank long houses of red cedar that was said to be 50-150 feet long and 20-60 feet wide. Each plank house was held together by wooden peg nails, had a large hole in a low roof for smoke ventilation, as well as consisted of a front door to keep heat in. Plank houses were furnished with simple furniture including bunk beds against the wall, storage areas, fire pits, and open shelves as well as dug holes for storing and cooling food. Your typical plank house would be home to several families, perhaps as many as 30 people. They were also commonly painted, often with a family crest. Individuals who built the longhouse usually resided there with their families and their kids would be assigned as space inside upon reaching maturity. But if the village built the plank house together, then it was the chief’s responsibility to assign living spaces to each family. And when the plank house owner died, it was either given away or burned to the ground. Because it was believed if the family stayed, then the dead person’s ghost would haunt the place. Also built temporary shelters made from mats, planks from the main house, or bark.

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While people of the Pacific Northwest Coast usually wore very little under temperate conditions, they tend to be known for wearing their chillkat blankets and decorative woven hats. And yes, these can be highly decorated as well.

Clothing: Usually wore very little clothing except when it was cold or special occasions. In the warmer months, men would go naked while women only wore bark skirts. Clothing was mostly made from softened cedar wood or bark, animal leather, and wool. Bark capes and spruce hats were used as protection against the rain. High ranking class members would usually don chillkat blankets, dance aprons, leggings, and moccasins on special occasions. Adorned themselves with piercings and tattoos.

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The Pacific Northwest Coast had several different types of canoes, mainly made from red cedar. They can be 50 feet long and 8 feet wide while holding up 2-50 people and up to 10,000 pounds of cargo. Of course, passengers have to bring their own oars.

Transportation: Built canoes of red cedar of several different types. They were usually 50 feet long and 8 feet wide as well as can hold up to 2-50 people and 10,000 pounds of cargo. Also had smaller boats for families and short outings. Also had dog pulled sleds for overland transport.

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Potlatch was a major event for Native Americans residing in the Pacific Northwest Coast as a means to reflect wealth and perpetuate social inequality within a village. These were held during a major event as well as hosted by aristocrats. At each potlatch, the host would display their wealth through distributing goods to visitors and others whether they be chillkat blankets, animal skins, or even slaves.

Society: Year round access to food allowed people to live sedentary lives in permanent settlements. Estimates state that as many as 250,000 could have lived in this region at one time. Houses were always grouped together side by side and facing towards the water in small villages, each marked by totem poles. Some even had as many as 1,000 living in only 30 homes. However, some groups had one or more small permanent, semipermanent, or seasonal villages or camping sites as well. Nevertheless, people in this region lived in a society based on hereditary status and the ceremonial winter potlatch was both as a means to reflect and perpetuate this social inequality. These consisted of the nobility, upper class free, lower class free, and slaves (actually not members of society at all). Each individual would also be ranked within their respective groups as well. Since this system was based on inheritance, the classes were fairly immutable though some transfer was possible through acquiring (by trade, purchase, marriage, and war) some inherited rights. Such rights and privileges were owned by the identified group which included songs, dances, performances, and control of subsistence areas identified by crests or design patterns. These patterns could reflect real and mythical family lines and associated incidents, animals, or spirits. The village chief always was always the head of the wealthiest and most powerful family and was a nominal war commanders, often undertaking political and ritual preparations before fighting. Though intragroup conflict was minimal, clan incest and witchcraft were considered capital offenses. Intergroup conflict took place within the framework of feuds and wars. Feuds entailed conflict for legalistic purposes while wars were waged solely for material gain (as in land, booty, and slaves). Northern tribes saw more regular conflict than their southern counterparts. Night raids were preferred strategy and victims’ heads were often displayed on poles as proof of fighting prowess. Also practiced intergroup trade where prices were negotiated.

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In a Pacific Northwest Coast extended family, one’s social rank and wealth intake were usually determined by their relationship to the family chief. Of course, since this was a matrilineal clan that practiced exogamous marriage, this only applied to the people on his mother’s side. Family chiefs were usually the wealthiest and oldest member of the clan.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent. In extended families, family chiefs were usually the oldest and highest ranking individuals while everyone else’s rank was determined by their relationship with the chief.  Family chiefs were primarily responsible for distributing wealth according to social status. Men practiced hunting, building, carving, and fishing while women did housework, raised kids, cooked, wove, made clothes, and dug for shellfish. Marriages were always conducted between people of different clans. When a man decided to marry a woman, he paid her dad an agreed amount before the wedding took place. This amount would be paid back when after the birth of the couple’s first child. After the payment, the wife was no longer obligated to be with her husband (so she could stay or leave him after that point).

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Aside from totem poles, the Pacific Northwest Coastal peoples are also well known for their elaborate ceremonies and their distinctive stylized art. Works of art could range from practical objects such as clothes, tools, transportation, houses, weapons, and what not to the purely ceremonial and aesthetic.

Practices: Totem poles, potlatch, music, dancing, shamanism, animism, storytelling, intricate crafts and sculpture, weaving, basketry, woodworking, masks, bentwood boxes, chillkat blankets, spirit quests, and heraldic art.

Tools and Weapons: Stone axes, adzes, spears, nets, traps, chisels, hammers, drills, knives, wedges, harpoons, traps, seal clubs, sledgehammers, deadfalls, fish line and hooks, and wooden crockery. Coast Salish practiced weaving on a full loom. Blades were made from rock, shell, horn, bone, and a small amount of iron.

Notable Tribes: Tlingit, Nisga’a, Haida, Tsimshian, Gitxsan, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Nuxalk, Wuikinuxv, Kwakwaka’wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, Coast Salish, Chinook, Chimakum, Quileute, Willapa, Nootka, and Tillamook.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 2 – The Subarctic

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Here’s a Subarctic Cree family from early Canada. While the mother and kids are dressed in drab, the father has quite a colorful costume and a gun. He also traps animals and trades their skins and feathers.

Our second stop in my Native American series is the Subarctic region. Now this isn’t as snowy and icy as the Arctic, it’s a pretty forbidding region despite it being a mostly boreal forest region. But it’s a very vast region starting from central interior of Alaska, covering the Canadian Shield, surrounding much of Hudson Bay and the northern Rockies, and ending in eastern Canada and as south as Lake Superior. In fact, it covers most of Canada. Nevertheless, despite that the Subarctic is a huge area, you really don’t see it in movies or on TV much (at least in the US, though in Canada, that may not be the case). Or if you did, you might know have known that they were from the Subarctic region. That, or the movie or show was Canadian made. Yet, many of these people tend to speak Athabaskan languages (though some also speak Algonquin in the east). Whatever the case, the Subarctic region is home to a population known to speak over 30 languages. And this area didn’t have a large population of hunter-gathers either. But what a lot of these peoples have in common is their teepee and wigwam shelters and their dependence on the caribou. Also, many of them wore parkas, too. At any rate, it’s kind of what you get if you put cultural aspects of the Plains, the Arctic, and the Northeastern Woodlands together. But it’s in a way that it makes perfect sense because while it may not get as much snow as the Arctic, it’s nowhere near pleasant enough to support agriculture at all. Not only that, but many of these hunter-gatherer groups dealt with regular periods of starvation as food availability can vary from place to place. So while the Subarctic might have great scenery to put on a postcard (since it’s home to Denali), it’s not a pleasant place to live. Still, since European contact in 1500 with Basques, Bretons, and other Europeans fishing at the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, non-native diseases, STDs, malnutrition and alcoholism would reduce native Subarctic population by 90-100% in some regional locations while some didn’t see a white person until the mid 19th century.

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While the Subarctic environment isn’t nearly as harsh as the frigid Arctic, it’s quite a forbidding place. Its rugged terrain, long cold winters, short summers, and generally low precipitation in rain, it’s a very hard place to live.

Location: Most of Canada as well as most of interior, western, and south central Alaska. Stretches from Alaska to east of the Rocky Mountains, and the northern Great Lakes.

First Peoples: The first people of the region possibly entered the region at least 12,000 years ago or even as long as 25,000 years ago. Athabaskan speakers descend from a Northern Archaic culture that existed at least 9,000 years ago. The Shield culture was predominant in Labrador before diverging. The Taltheilei tradition existed 6,000 years ago from Great Bear Lake to Lake Athabaska and the Churchill River. The Laurel culture of Manitoba and northern Ontario lasted from 1000 B.C.E. to 800 and known for their ceramic pottery along with the Selkirk and the Blackduck Cree.

Environment: Mountainous and boreal forest with thousands of streams and waterlogged tundra. East has low hills and rock outcroppings. West has high mountains, glaciers, and plains. Climate is characterized by short, mild to hot summers and long, bitterly cold winters. Precipitation is generally low save in some mountainous areas and coastal Alaska and falls mainly as snow. Short springs experience plagues of mosquitoes, black flies, and other insects as well as ice break up and snow melt. Travel can also be limited at that time as well as the fall freeze up. Soil was often poor and often swampy, making agricultural development impossible.

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Central to the Subarctic tribal existence was the caribou for which they depended on for food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Here is a painting of a caribou hunt.

Subsistence: Primarily hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Moose and caribou were a major part of diets for many tribes, with some groups regularly suffering from hunger or even starvation during shortages. Yet, smaller animals like hare, marmot, beaver, porcupine, and muskrat were also consumed along with fish, roots, and berries. Coastal groups relied on sea mammals and shellfish while western groups even hunted buffalo. Musk ox, bear, lynx, wolf, coyote, fox, mink, weasel, otter, wolverine, wapiti and elk were also hunted where available.

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Teepees and wigwams may not have been the only housing in the Subarctic region. But they were among the most common. Most of these would be covered in caribou or moose hides along with bark.

Housing: Most tribal groups resided in domed and conical lodges consisting of poles covered with skins, boughs, or birch bark. Or in other words, wigwams and teepees but not what you’d see on the Plains or the Northeast. Groups closest to the Northwest Coast tribes built plank houses while some built frame houses partially below the earth as well as bark covered rectangular houses at fishing camps. Some groups built shelters with a double A-ridgepole framework and containing multiple fires as well as sod pit houses. Structures like drying racks, sweat houses, caches, menstrual houses, and others were also commonly built.

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This Athabaskan family portrait shows a variety of what native peoples in the Subarctic would’ve worn. In winter, they would’ve worn parkas, snowsuits, and other winter items. In the spring and summer, they’d go with tanned leather clothing of caribou and moose.

Clothing: Most clothing usually came from moose and caribou as well as hare and other skins with trim from beaver or other fur. Hides were often tanned and dehaired so they wouldn’t weigh down except winter items like parkas, hats, and mittens. Many people wore leggings with moccasins. Clothing can be decorated with fringe, paint, quills, claws, or down. Women wore dresses while men wore shirts, jackets, and snowsuits. Mothers often carried their babies on their backs with cradle boards. Adornments consisted of noseplugs, earrings, and tattooing.

Transportation: Overland travel was usually preferred and many used sleds, sledges, and toboggans (sometimes pulled by dogs though not always). Though people did build lightweight birch bark canoes and moose hide boats.

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Like most nomadic tribes, Subarctic Indian society wasn’t very authoritarian, formal, or centralized. Extended families usually lived in groups though once in awhile bands would get together to socialize, hunt, and trade.

Society: This was a sparsely populated area with no more than 100,000 living in the region at any one time. So most cultures were nomadic. The basic unit was a local group consisting of 10-20 related people but could be up to 75. Membership was fluid and nonbinding, in deference to autonomy values and need for flexibility in a difficult environment. Leadership was extremely informal and nonauthoritarian, except for the groups most influenced by the Northwest Coast. When conditions permitted (possibly not quite every summer), local groups might come together as loosely constructed regional bands of several hundred people to socialize and renew family ties. Kinship names were used in most tribes as a general term. For instance, elders were addressed “Grandmother” or “Grandfather” whether they were blood related or not. Some groups might conduct memorial potlach with chiefs being recognized as among the clan leaders in the Cordillera. Warfare was mostly a local matter though while some groups seeking women, most people fought over revenge for trespass or prior blood transgression. Yet, warfare was more developed in the far west than in other areas. However, there were no regional groups conducting full scale wars. Trade was widely practiced with goods and services being exchanged as a peaceful reason for travel and human interaction while bands frequently shared resources with each other.

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Though Subarctic tribes mostly practiced matrilineal descent, the treatment of women varied from tribe. Some women were treated as no more than mere pack animals while others maintained relative autonomy and even assumed positions of authority and power.

Family Structure: Primarily matrilineal descent, though not always. Women mostly made clothes, prepared food, and looked after children while men hunted the big game. However, it wasn’t uncommon for women to snare hare or fish. Women’s status varied according to local custom with some being treated as essentially pack animals with little to eat and others existing in relative autonomy as well as attaining both authority and power. Female infanticide wasn’t unknown through much of the region while menstrual taboos could be quite rigorous. Yet, both men and women were usually married by 13 or 14 and had some decision power in the bands. Newly married men were required to live with their in-laws for at least a year before establishing their own households (yet, sometimes they could have more than one wife). Exogamy and cross cousin marriage were usually encouraged. Since infant mortality was common, babies were usually not named until it was certain they would survive. Cremation was standard funerary practice.

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The Subarctic tribes were well known for their intricate beadwork and embroidery. After they made contact with the Europeans, these Indians took to using glass beads and sewn floral designs.

Practices: Animism, shamanism, reincarnation, ceramics, storytelling, controlled burning, music, lacrosse, wooden dolls, basket weaving, dance, embroidery, beadwork, and scapulimancy.

Tools and Weapons: Antler clubs soaked in grease, armor, spears, hide containers for holding water, tumplines for carrying, snowshoes, bow and arrow, net traps, gaffs, fish hooks, snares, and weirs. Raw materials usually consisted of bark, wood, root, stone, and sometimes copper. Yet, many groups also liberally borrowed from their neighbors.

Notable Tribes: Cree, Ojibwa, Gwich’in, Dena’ina, Beothuk, Beaver, Mountain, Hare, Han, Tanacross, Yelloknife, Innu, Chipewyan, Eyak, Kuskokwim, Holikachunk, Sekani, Tagish, Ingalik, Ahtna, Babine-Wet’suwet’en, Dogrib, Tutchone, Carrier, Chilcotin, Attikamek, Tanana, Bearlake, Koyukon, Naskapi, Slavey, Tlicho, and Kaska.

The Indigenous Peoples of North America: Part 1 – The Arctic

 

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As we have been taught in our history classes, before Europeans arrived to North America, the continent was inhabited by a people called the Native Americans. Of course, those who’ve taken courses in American history in school will probably know that our education doesn’t really touch on these people very much (other than that they later got killed by European disease and relocated to reservations so white people can take their lands). Mostly because an average US history class can only cover so much within 180 days or less. Thus, with the exception of those who took Native American Studies in college or read books about them, most of us tend to learn about the Indians through the media and pop culture. Now your average Native American on TV or in the movies will most likely have long black hair (either free flowing, single thick braid, or loose pigtails) or a Mohawk. Not mention, your average media Native American would have a feather stuck in their hair as an ornament or an elaborate feather headdress (like a war bonnet). If your Indian is a guy, he’ll have on leather pants often lined with fringe along with an age dependent upper wardrobe. Older Indian men usually wear leather tunics and vests while the younger guys have other options of going with just the vest or a bare chest. If he’s shirtless, then expect him to wear some degree of body paint. Yet at any rate, he’ll certainly get his war paint on at the climatic battle scene. If your Indian is a woman, she’ll often wear a single piece leather slip and leave her legs bare. Either way, your average media Native American will wear beaded jewelry as well as soft leather moccasins if they’re not barefoot.

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And it doesn’t help that many Native Americans depicted in classic westerns are played by white guys with blue eyes. Yeah, really makes a convincing Indian (sorry, but the heavy dark makeup isn’t fooling me).

Now is this an accurate representation of Native Americans? Well, some of the time. However, pop culture tends to get the idea of representing Native North Americans with a one-size-fits-all approach of beads, buckskins, and braids. Did all Native North Americans dress this way before Europeans? No. Because North America is a big place with a great deal of variation between Native cultures, especially since the continent has a variety of environments. An Indian from New Mexico did not dress the same way as one from North Dakota. And occasionally, you might see indigenous people in Peru wearing buckskin outfits which is another matter entirely (especially if you account for the llama wool). Nevertheless, such Native North American portrayal doesn’t capture the wide variety while many tribes’ traditional outfits look nothing like the stereotype.

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Yet, they still depict teepees and totem poles on the Playmobil Indian camp play set. Sure it looks cute. But it’s seriously wrong and perpetuates cultural inaccuracies. Seriously, you might as well have a play set of the Norse gods with a Grecian temple.

Then there are the aspects of Native North American culture that you see in the media. Of course, there’s the offensive denigration of Indians as savages but this stereotype has been done to death so I won’t bother to talk about it. Then there’s the magical nature worshipping Native Americans who are just misunderstood because a bunch of selfish white guys want their land. Either way, they’re not going to speak English like a normal person. But that’s beside the point. Anyway, you might see Native American tribes depicted doing things and using stuff that belongs to a myriad of different tribes. A good example of this would be the Indian tribe in Peter Pan which juxtaposes Great Plains teepees and Pacific Northwest totem poles. At a cultural and historical perspective, this is as jarring as it’s inaccurate as portraying Vikings with Grecian temples. Also, you might find a lot of Indians wearing mohawks and war bonnets even when they’re not supposed to. In reality, Native North Americans were and are a diverse group ranging from nomadic hunter-gatherers to agricultural civilizations. And they have adapted to a variety of environmental conditions.

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Type Indian or Native American on any search engine, you’re bound to get results like this. Now while this certainly is a Native American portrait, the guy is most likely a leader of the Plains tribes. And he only wears the war bonnet on ceremonial occasions.

In this series, I plan on showing my readers a rough view on how Native North Americans really lived. However, I’m not going to go with a tribe on tribe basis because that would take too long (since there are over 500 of them). So instead I’ll go according to cultural area. Yet, note that whatever I say about this series will only apply chiefly to Native North Americans before European contact. So if you want to know about Plains horse culture or Navajo sheep herding and silversmithing, this series isn’t for you (though I will show pictures). Not only that, but understand that a one-size-fits-all approach may not apply to all the Indians living in that particular cultural region, even within a recognized tribe or tribal group. I just have it written in because it applies to some of the Indians living there. Also, some tribes might go in more than one region.

Inupiat Family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929, Edward S. Curtis

A family photo of an Inupiat Eskimo mother, father, and son, photographed in Noatak, Alaska, by Edward Sheriff Curtis circa 1929. It’s certainly plausible that they’d be wearing their parkas in every day life. But most of the Inuit have adopted to modern lifestyles. Yet, that didn’t stop Robert Flaherty drom doing Nanook of the North.

Our first North American region is the Arctic, which is often exempt from most Native American depictions. Mostly because the Arctic is a very frigid place of ice and snow. Arctic Native Americans tend to be depicted more accurately as wearing parkas, living in igloos, hunting seals, riding kayaks, and running on the ice in dog sleds. But it’s not quite right. Since not all Arctic Native Americans lived in igloos (and even those who did didn’t live in them all the time). Plant life does exist there and the ice does thaw (and keeps thawing due to climate change). While these Native Americans resided near polar bears, they didn’t live anywhere near penguins (which actually live in the Southern Hemisphere). And yes, they do take off their parkas once in awhile. Sure they may spend their days dogsledding, ice fishing, and seal hunting, but they also hunt whales, walruses, and other animals, too. Oh, and they didn’t always leave their grandmas to die on ice floes. Nor did they just eat blubber. Nevertheless, while the Arctic can be a rather inhospitable place, these people have managed to survive its harsh climate for thousands of years and continue to do so. Most of them reside in the farthest reaches of Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland. Yet, they don’t necessarily have a lifestyle that 100% akin to Nanook of the North (which is kind of a documentary of the Inuit showing how they lived when they were 12). Because they do know about modern technology, actually take advantage of it, and think the idea of pining for the good old days is utterly insane (even among those who grew up in the traditional lifestyle). However, you might want to avoid calling them Eskimos because some of them see the term as derogatory. Also, a lot of them don’t like being called Indians either which is partly why we tend to refer to indigenous people in North America as Native Americans.

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This is a figurine from the Paleo-Eskimo Dorset culture who were among the first people in the Arctic region. The Paleo-Eskimos inhabited the area from 6,000 years ago before mysteriously disappearing at around 1500 at the latest. DNA evidence has proven that they were not the ancestors of the modern Inuit, a fact that I hardly believe (mostly because if the Thule and Dorset culture coexisted, you’d expect that they’d be having sex with each other. Because that’s what normally happens).

Location: Near the Arctic Circle, encompassing northern and western regions of Alaska, northern Canada, and Greenland.

First Peoples: Assuming that the earliest Native Americans arrived to the continent through the Bering land bridge, the Arctic region was only used as nothing more than an area to pass through before venturing into greener pastures. The first groups who inhabited this region didn’t arrive until 6,000 years ago and in at least 2 migrations from Siberia and it was the last area in North America to be populated. The Paleo-Eskimo cultures first developed by 2500 BCE and consists of the Arctic Small Tool Tradition (who lived in tent camps while chasing seals and caribou 4000 years ago), the Dorsets (walrus hunters from 500 BCE-1500), and the Thule (who sailed in large skin boats and hunted whales who are said to arrive in 200 BCE-1600). Only the Thule have any biological, cultural and linguistic connection the modern Inuit and are often considered their ancestors. However, it is known that the Dorsets and Thule had no genetic connection and barely interacted with each other (at least favorably. However, the lack of genetic connection is highly unusual since these two groups existed around the same time. But even if under the most hostile relations, you’d still expect that members of both groups would have sex with each other. How can these people coexist without having sex with each other? I don’t get it). And the Dorset would mysteriously disappear by the 1500s. Some evidence suggests that the Thule and Dorsets had contact with the Vikings.

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Here’s a scene of Nanook hunting seal from the 1922 Robert Flaherty “documentary” Nanook of the North. The harsh tundra climate and terrain led the Arctic people to hunt sea mammals including seal and whale. By the way, hunting for such animals in the Arctic was a highly difficult and dangerous task that took hours.

Environment: Tundra, which can be better said as a desert of snow that’s cold, flat, and treeless (though Arctic plants do exist). Snow, ice, and freezing temperatures all year round (along with the increasing threat of global warming). Can sometimes experience a white night and midnight sun come summer as well as 24 hours of darkness in winter. But the Aurora Borealis is pretty. One of the harshest environments on earth.

Subsistence: Hunter, gatherer, and fisher subsistence. Diet was mostly meat based consisting of ringed and bearded seals, walrus, narwhal, and whales. On land, caribou were by far the most important source of food (and other raw materials) along with musk ox, wolf, fox, wolverine, and squirrel. Also consumed ptarmigan, duck, geese, and their eggs. Fishing was mostly a 3 season activity. Some areas even had people gather berries. Almost every part of the hunted animals were used.

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As you might know, the Inuit are well known for building igloos made of snow and ice. Yet, contrary to what you see in the media, igloos were only used as temporary shelter. Sometimes they could be built close together and connected by tunnels.

Housing: Different types depended on materials available and whether the home wasp permanent or temporary. In the central Arctic region, domed shaped snow igloos were the rule among the Inuit. Many of these would often be built attached to each other for added warmth and sociability. And they even had snow furniture in them, too. But some Inuit tribes built sod houses which consisted of a dug rectangular pit with walls made from sod and rocks as well as wood pieces and whalebone for the roof called a shuswap. Aleut housing consisted of a partially underground house covered with logs, whalebone, or poles before being covered by earth, snow, or moss. This was called a Barabara. Temporary housing included a large men’s ceremonial house called a kashim and its female counterpart called an ena along with summer tents of seal and caribou skin over bone or wooden frames.

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Unlike a lot of Native American cultures, Arctic tribes like the Inuit sometimes still wear their traditional parkas, a lot of times made from caribou fur for added insulation.

Clothing: Most clothing was made from caribou skin though polar bear, seal, wolverine, squirrel, bird, and fish skins were also used. And it was primarily fashioned for insulation from freezing temperatures and wind. In winter, people wore inner (fur side in) and outer fur side garments (fur side out). But only the inner garment was worn during the summer fur side out. The winter outer garment was a heavy hooded jacket, often lined with fur known as a parka. A mother might wear an extra-large parka to shelter babies. Both sexes wore pants, stockings, mittens, seal skin boots, or low shoes. Raincoats were sewn with waterproof gut. Clothes were often decorated with colored furs or fringe. Men wore snowshoes and snow goggles while hunting in the winter. Adornments consisted of labrets (lip plugs), ear pendants, nose rings, and tattoos. Sothern tribes wore close fitting shits and pants. While Aleut women wore seal or otter skin parkas, Aleut men wore parkas of bird skin where the feathers turned in and out depending on the weather. Aleut children wore down parkas with tanned bird skin caps.

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Sleds pulled by dogs and kayaks were the primary modes of transportation among the Arctic Native Americans. Dog sleds for land and kayaks for water. Luckily I found a picture that had both a kayak and sled dogs.

Transportation: Kayaks were closed boats made for one man and used for hunting. Larger open umiaks made from wooden frames and sewn skins for water navigation. Umiaks were employed for either whale hunting or general travel (in the latter case, they’d be paddled and/or rowed by women). Wood and rawhide sleds were pulled by either dogs or people and were used for winter travel.

Society: This was a sparsely populated area that could have consisted as many as 80,000 pre-European contact. Lived a mostly nomadic culture where group members saw themselves tied to the land. Members lived in an isolated existence and would organize into bands on a seasonal basis. Leadership was generally underdeveloped. When strong leaders emerged, there was little formal structure and usually for a temporary situation like whaling expeditions. Leaders were usually older, experienced men who might be leading household heads and probably owned an umiak. Also had a very bloody history of intertribal warfare.

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Another scene from Nanook of the North. This one depicts Nanook’s wife Nyla with their baby playing with the husky puppies. Arctic nuclear families normally consisted of 5 to 6 people at a time. And Arctic family life wasn’t always as happy as what you see in this 1922 film. Still, this moment is so filled with cuteness.

Family Structure: Nuclear families usually consisted of 5 to 6 people. Hunting sea mammals was the primary occupation of most men because it could be highly dangerous and/or extremely demanding. Women sewed up skins, cooked food, tended lamps, and looked after children. Both men and women took part in igloo construction. Descent was generally bilateral. Kinship was of such primary importance so much that “strangers” (those who couldn’t immediately document kin affiliations) were perceived as potentially hostile and might be summarily killed. Other groups subject to willful death were infants (especially girls) and old people. Cannibalism and suicide weren’t uncommon, but only in extreme cases of need. Prospective husbands often served the bride’s parents for a period of time (bride service). Wife stealing (committed in the overall competition of supremacy) might result in death as possibly other conflicts. Murders were subject to revenge. Corpses were generally wrapped in skins and left on the ground. Southwest Inuit and Aleuts practiced mummification. Yupik parents tend to name their children after the last person in the community to have died.

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While the Inuit mostly dominate the Arctic cultural Native American landscape, the Aleut and the Yupik also reside there. These are Aleuts who reside in the Alaskan Aleutian Islands while the Yupik live in western Alaska. Both groups also live in part of Siberia as well.

Practices: Bone, antler, and ivory figurines, amulets, and toys. Wooden ceremonial and dance masks. Basket weaving, animism, shamanism, music, acrobatics, kickball, string games, and storytelling.

Tools and Weapons: Harpoon, bow and arrow, needle, thimble, knife, adze, ax, drill, scraper, spear, and shovel, primarily from bone and antler as well as chipped stone (for points, blades, scrapers, and pots). Other tools include baleen boxes, soapstone pottery, oil and blubber burning lamps with moss wicks, movement indicators (for breathing-hole sealing), throwers, various types of harpoons (with detachable heads), seal nets, clubs, bird bolas, three pronged spears, fish hooks, stone fish weirs, as well as animal traps and snares.

Notable Tribes: Inuit, Aleut, and Yupik. Some of the Aleut and Yupik are known to reside in Siberia.

The Pro Sports Mascot Hall of Shame

Doing a post on bad sports mascots got me thinking about the big leagues and how some of them don’t seem to rally the team as much as create a franchise embarrassment. Now I know many of the guys behind the costumes probably started doing this in high school and college perhaps to get in with the cheerleaders or avoid embarrassment of their jock filled family who didn’t want him in marching band. Yet, many of these pro mascots probably took their talent to the big leagues since they love the limelight and/or don’t have many applicable skills. Now the following mascots I’m listing on this post are from the Big Four Leagues based in the United States and sometime Canada as far as the NHL goes. Still, for those who feel embarrassed about your pro team mascot, this is the list for you and for those who are offended for putting your favorite mascot on the list, I sincerely apologize. So without further adieu, here is my cavalcade of the worst mascots in professional sports.

 

NFL

 

1. Steely McBeam- Pittsburgh Steelers

Now I'm from the Pittsburgh area and most Steelers fans think that Steely McBeam is perhaps the stupidest mascot from any Pittsburgh Big Four sports franchise. Seriously, Steely is creepy as hell and his eyes reveal that he's ready to whack someone with his steel I-beam. Nevertheless, why did the Steelers think that they needed a mascot that's so lame?

Now I’m from the Pittsburgh area and most Steelers fans think that Steely McBeam is perhaps the stupidest mascot from any Pittsburgh Big Four sports franchise. Seriously, Steely is creepy as hell and his eyes reveal that he’s ready to whack someone with his steel I-beam. Nevertheless, why did the Steelers think that they needed a mascot that’s so lame?

 

2. Rowdy- Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys may be America's football team (Steeler fans: actually no way in hell), but we're sure that Rowdy isn't America's favorite NFL mascot. Also, I think he's kind of committing sexual harassment by gazing at that cheerleader's boobs. Creepy.

The Dallas Cowboys may be America’s football team (Steeler fans: no way in hell), but we’re sure that Rowdy isn’t America’s favorite NFL mascot. Also, I think he’s kind of committing sexual harassment by gazing at that cheerleader’s boobs. Creepy.

 

3. Boltman- San Diego Chargers

Though Boltman was born with phenomenally electrical powers, he couldn't get a job anywhere else than being the San Diego Chargers' mascot after he was rejected by the X-Men for simply making the team look bad and pissing off Wolverine.

Though Boltman was born with phenomenally electrical powers, he couldn’t get a job anywhere else than being the San Diego Chargers’ mascot after he was rejected by the X-Men for simply making the team look bad and pissing off Wolverine.

 

4. Edgar, Allan, and Poe- Baltimore Ravens

I don't know about you, but I think having three Baltimore Ravens mascots modeled after the racist crows from Dumbo named Edgar, Allan, and Poe would sort of send the noted author of "The Raven" turning in his grave. Sure they shall receive love from their fans, nevermore.

I don’t know about you, but I think having three Baltimore Ravens mascots modeled after the racist crows from Dumbo named Edgar, Allan, and Poe would sort of send the noted author of “The Raven” turning in his grave. Sure they shall receive love from their fans, nevermore.

 

5. Blue-Indianapolis Colts

While horses are majestic and beautiful creatures known to kick major ass, this horse mascot seemed to be designed by the creator of My Little Pony on a brown acid trip.

While horses are majestic and beautiful creatures known to kick major ass, this horse mascot seemed to be designed by the creator of My Little Pony on a brown acid trip.

 

6. T. D.- Miami Dolphins

You may not know it but dolphins are pretty aggressive creatures with some species known to kill for fun despite their cuteness. Yet, put one in a Miami Dolphins uniform and introduce it as your mascot, it doesn't seem very intimidating at all.

You may not know it but dolphins are pretty aggressive creatures with some species known to kill for fun despite their cuteness. Yet, put one in a Miami Dolphins uniform and introduce it as your mascot, it doesn’t seem very intimidating at all. Seriously, still too cute.

 

7. Raider Rusher- Oakland Raiders

Now what's worse than having a giant head person mascot ? Well, having a giant head mascot with a spike helmet and mask but no freaking torso! Imagine taking a picture of this guy with your kids. They'll probably cry.

Now what’s worse than having a giant head person mascot ? Well, having a giant head mascot with a spike helmet and mask but no freaking torso! Imagine taking a picture of this guy with your kids. They’ll probably cry.

 

8. Jaxon de Ville- Jacksonville Jaguars

Now I see nothing wrong with having a big cat mascot for your sports team. Yet, a big cat mascot in a speedo and sunglasses, well, that's not right. Seriously, I don't find speedo as anything you'd want to wear in front of kids, even on jaguars.

Now I see nothing wrong with having a big cat mascot for your sports team. Yet, a big cat mascot in a speedo and sunglasses, well, that’s not right. Seriously, I don’t find speedo as anything you’d want to wear in front of kids, even on jaguars.

 

9. Pat Patriot- New England Patriots

Now Pat the Patriot shows that just because he looks good for the logo, doesn't mean that he should have a costumed counterpart. I mean he has a sinister look in his eye as if he's about to ask for your soul.

Now Pat the Patriot shows that just because he looks good for the logo, doesn’t mean that he should have a costumed counterpart. I mean he has a sinister look in his eye as if he’s about to ask for your soul.

 

10. Sir Saint- New Orleans Saints

Now I know he's been mascot for the New Orleans Saints for years, but he's a walking and talking cartoon character. Also, he has an enormous chin, which is pretty terrifying if you ask me. Seriously, he seems he wants to beat up somebody after the game. Look at him.

Now I know he’s been mascot for the New Orleans Saints for years, but he’s a walking and talking cartoon character. Also, he has an enormous chin, which is pretty terrifying if you ask me. Seriously, he seems he wants to beat up somebody after the game. Look at him.

 

11. Captain Fear- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Now he may seem rather fearsome all right, but for those who've seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, he seems to be a rather lame mascot even with the wicked scar on his face. Seems more appropriate for a children's movie with pirates in it who don't do anything, well, the good pirates anyway.

Now he may seem rather fearsome all right, but for those who’ve seen the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, he seems to be a rather lame mascot even with the wicked scar on his face. Seems more appropriate for a children’s movie with pirates in it who don’t do anything, well, the good pirates anyway.

 

12. Indian- Washington Redskins

Of course, I couldn't do a post on bad Big Four mascots without including one from the Washington Redskins. I mean this guy is a walking offensive caricature to Native Americans.  Seriously, Redskins, change your fucking name for God's sake? You're projecting a highly negative stereotype many Indians find profoundly offensive. Seriously, this mascot reveals the deep depths of your highly racist soul.

Of course, I couldn’t do a post on bad Big Four mascots without including one from the Washington Redskins. I mean this guy is a walking offensive caricature to Native Americans. Seriously, Redskins, change your fucking name for God’s sake? You’re projecting a highly negative stereotype many Indians find profoundly offensive. This mascot reveals the deep depths of your highly racist soul.

 

MLB

 

1. Raymond- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Seriously, what the hell is this thing? Well, whatever he is, he seems more appropriate for a Dr. Seuss acid trip than as an official mascot for Major League Baseball.

Seriously, what the hell is this thing? Well, whatever he is, he seems more appropriate for a Dr. Seuss acid trip than as an official mascot for Major League Baseball. I mean he looks like he could be related to the Lorax for God’s sake.

 

2. Dinger- Colorado Rockies

Now I have one good thing and one bad thing to say about this mascot. The good: despite being a cuddly perfect dinosaur, at least he ain't Barney. The Bad: he's still a cuddly purple dinosaur who belongs in Land Before Time, not Major League Baseball.

Now I have one good thing and one bad thing to say about this mascot. The good: despite being a cuddly perfect dinosaur, at least he ain’t Barney. The Bad: he’s still a cuddly purple dinosaur who belongs in Land Before Time, not Major League Baseball.

 

3. Billy the Marlin- Florida Marlins

Now I'm not a big fan of fish mascots, yet this one seems like the Creature of the Black Lagoon's embarrassing long nosed cousin from Miami. Seriously, that does not resemble a marlin in any way.

Now I’m not a big fan of fish mascots, yet this one seems like the Creature of the Black Lagoon’s embarrassing long nosed cousin from Miami who has a large collection of Jimmy Buffett music. Seriously, that does not resemble a marlin in any way.

 

4. Phillie Phanatic- Philadelphia Phillies

I guess since he landed on planet earth,as well as appreciating it much more than wherever he came from, the Phillie Phanatic signed to be a mascot for the Phillies. Either that, or his Philadelphia mascot gig is a backup line of work after he fail his audition for Sesame Street. We're not sure which.

I guess since he landed on planet earth,as well as appreciating it much more than wherever he came from, the Phillie Phanatic signed to be a mascot for the Phillies. Either that, or his Philadelphia mascot gig is a backup line of work after he fail his audition for Sesame Street. We’re not sure which.

 

5. Screech- Washington Nationals

Now I know that bald eagles are majestic creatures and is the national bird of the United States. This mascot reduces an American icon to a Nick Jr. cartoon character.

Now I know that bald eagles are majestic creatures and is the national bird of the United States. This mascot reduces an American icon to a Nick Jr. cartoon character.

 

6. Bernie Brewer- Milwaukee Brewers

Sure he may be a beloved mascot for the Milwaukee Brewers, but his bushy old timey mustache seems to bring a rather creepy vibe to him. Really, Bernie doesn't seem to be up to no good.

Sure he may be a beloved mascot for the Milwaukee Brewers, but his bushy old timey mustache seems to bring a rather creepy vibe to him. Really, Bernie doesn’t seem to be up to no good.

 

7. Southpaw- Chicago White Sox

After being rejected from Sesame Street, Southpaw traveled all the way to Chicago to make his fortune. After a comedy run on Second City, Southpaw managed to achieve fame as the mascot for the Chicago White Sox. Of course, his Twitter account says: “Hey! It’s me Southpaw, the official White Sox Mascot. I sleep, breathe, eat (well…maybe not eat..that would be weird) the White Sox.” Excuse me? What did I just hear? And they have this guy perform at birthday parties?

 

8. Sluggerr- Kansas City Royals

Seriously, is that crown his skin? Seriously, what is he? Is he an alien from outer space because crown heads like that aren't natural in large mammal predators. Still, he's simply terrifying.

Seriously, is that crown his skin? Seriously, what is he? Is he an alien from outer space because crown heads like that aren’t natural in large mammal predators. Either that or what would happen if Bart Simpson mated with a bear. Still, he’s simply terrifying and that kid doesn’t seem too happy posing with him.

 

9. D. Baxter the Bobcat- Arizona Diamondbacks

For God's sake, I'm sure that looks like something I'd see in Pittsburgh during a furry convention. That costume is simply terrifying if you know what I mean and is kind of an insult to bobcats.

For God’s sake, I’m sure that looks like something I’d see in Pittsburgh during a furry convention. That costume is simply terrifying if you know what I mean and is kind of an insult to bobcats.

 

10. Wally the Green Monster- Boston Red Sox

I'm sure the people of Boston might find this Incredible Muppet Hulk loveable for some reason. Yet, for the rest of us, this Jim Hensian monstrosity would probably make everyone else uncomfortable who doesn't live in Boston.

I’m sure the people of Boston might find this Incredible Muppet Hulk loveable for some reason. Yet, for the rest of us, this Jim Hensonian monstrosity would probably make everyone else uncomfortable who doesn’t live in Boston.

 

11. Slider- Cleveland Indians

The Good News: Despite their refusal to change their outright racist logo and send Chief Wahoo to the burning fires of Hell, you have to admit their efforts to include a mascot that doesn't offend Native Americans. The Bad News: If there was a slasher horror movie that included a cast of Jim Henson muppets, I'm sure he'd be the monster killing everybody.

The Good News: Despite their refusal to change their outright racist logo and send Chief Wahoo to the burning fires of Hell, you have to admit their efforts to include a mascot that doesn’t offend Native Americans. The Bad News: If there was a slasher horror movie that included a cast of Jim Henson muppets, I’m sure he’d be the monster killing everybody.

 

12. San Diego Chicken- San Diego Padres

Though he is known for beating up Barney the purple dinosaur during Padres games, yet let's face it, chickens make lame mascots for sports teams. I'm sure this guy seems more appropriate as a spokesman for Tyson yet he didn't want to advocate people eating his fellow poultry.

Though he is known for beating up Barney the purple dinosaur during Padres games, yet let’s face it, chickens make lame mascots for sports teams. I’m sure this guy seems more appropriate as a spokesman for Tyson yet he didn’t want to advocate people eating his fellow poultry.

 

13. Clark the Cub- Chicago Cubs

If you think going through a century without a World Series win was bad enough for Chicago Cubs fans, then you don't know the half of it. Sure Clark is a cute mascot but he's a bit creepy as if he's a spokesman for some Saturday morning PSA about adults touching you inappropriately. That or something a person drew to get into art school.

If you think going through a century without a World Series win was bad enough for Chicago Cubs fans, then you don’t know the half of it. Sure Clark is a cute mascot but he’s a bit creepy as if he’s a spokesman for some Saturday morning PSA about adults touching you inappropriately. That or something a person drew to get into art school.

 

14. Gapper- Cincinnati Reds

Let's see Gapper is either: A. Elmo's embarrassing dad who basically swindled his son's Sesame Street earnings. B. A monster chasing you in a Jim Henson horror movie. C. An alien from outer space. Or D. all of the above.

Let’s see Gapper is: A. Elmo’s embarrassing dad who basically swindled his son’s Sesame Street earnings. B. A monster chasing you in a Jim Henson horror movie. C. An alien from outer space. Or D. all of the above.

 

15. Junction Jack- Houston Astros

Let's see if Jim Henson ever did a muppet version of Deliverance, I'm sure Junction Jack would be doing unspeakable things to the muppet Ned Beatty character. Seriously, if you hear any banjo music nearby when he's around, get the hell out of there.

Let’s see if Jim Henson ever did a muppet version of Deliverance, I’m sure Junction Jack would be doing unspeakable things to the muppet Ned Beatty character. Seriously, if you hear any banjo music nearby when he’s around, get the hell out of there.

 

16. Swinging Friar- San Diego Padres

Now I know that the San Diego Padres derive their name from the Franciscan Friars and that "padre" is another thing to call a priest. Yet, I wonder how many people firmly believe that the Swinging Friar is an insulting caricature of monks? I mean they were pretty awesome guys in the Middle Ages, not fat idiots akin to Friar Tuck!

Now I know that the San Diego Padres derive their name from the Franciscan Friars and that “padre” is another thing to call a priest. Yet, I wonder how many people firmly believe that the Swinging Friar is an insulting caricature of monks? I mean they were pretty awesome guys in the Middle Ages, not fat idiots akin to Friar Tuck!

 

17. Mr. Redlegs- Cincinnati Reds

Mr. Redlegs is basically a cross between Mr. Met and the Monopoly Man. Yet, from the look in his crazed eyes, you wonder whether he's going to murder any players from the opposing team shall any of them score a home run.

Mr. Redlegs is basically a cross between Mr. Met and the Monopoly Man. Yet, from the look in his crazed eyes, you wonder whether he’s going to murder any players from the opposing team shall any of them score a home run.

 

18. The Luchador- Arizona Diamondbacks

Sure as a lucha libre wrestler, he's a racist caricature that offends many in the Latino Community. Yet, what choice did the Arizona Diamondbacks had in selecting him? I mean their other candidates to curry favor to Latinos included a  giant walking burrito, a chubby pancho clad bandito with a sombrero and duel wielding pistol, a matador, and a flamenco dancer. Perhaps a Hispanic baseball player from the team would've been better.

Sure as a lucha libre wrestler, he’s a racist caricature that offends many in the Latino Community. Yet, what choice did the Arizona Diamondbacks had in selecting him? I mean their other candidates to curry favor to Latinos included a giant walking burrito, a chubby pancho clad bandito with a sombrero and duel wielding pistol, a matador, and a flamenco dancer. Perhaps a Hispanic baseball player from the team would’ve been better.

 

19. Lefty and Righty- Boston Red Sox

Dear Boston, just because your team is named the Red Sox, doesn't mean that having two giant red sock mascots is a good idea. Seriously, why?

Dear Boston, just because your team is named the Red Sox, doesn’t mean that having two giant red sock mascots is a good idea. Seriously, why?

 

20. Orbit- Houston Astros

Sure Orbit may be a cuddly alien but we're not sure what the hell the ends of his antennas are for. Also, he's not very intimidating is he? More like an alien who'd appear on some cereal box at Save A Lot.

Sure Orbit may be a cuddly alien but we’re not sure what the hell the ends of his antennas are for. Also, he’s not very intimidating is he? More like an alien who’d appear on some cereal box at Save A Lot.

 

21. Paws- Detroit Tigers

He's basically related to Tony the Tiger who's on ten years probation after a stint in the state penitentiary. We're not sure what he was in for but he did something really bad. Tony the Tiger's family doesn't really talk about him.

He’s basically related to Tony the Tiger who’s on ten years probation after a stint in the state penitentiary. We’re not sure what he was in for but he did something really bad. Tony the Tiger’s family doesn’t really talk about him. Perhaps because he has an unsettling look in his eyes.

 

22. The Sausages- Milwaukee Brewers

Think of them as a muppet version of the Village People, but 100 times more terrifying. Yeah, you don't want to stay at the YMCA when when these guys do a rendition.

Think of them as a muppet version of the Village People, but 100 times more terrifying. Yeah, you don’t want to stay at the YMCA when when these guys do a rendition.

 

23. Stomper- Oakland Athletics

Now he may appear as a reasonably intimidating elephant on the Oakland A's logo. Yet, he practically seems more suited for a kid's program in person and that's no small peanuts here.

Now he may appear as a reasonably intimidating elephant on the Oakland A’s logo. Yet, he practically seems more suited for a kid’s program in person and that’s no small peanuts here. Yeah, not very intimidating.

 

NBA

 

1. G-Wiz- Washington Wizards

Basically G-Wiz is the result of what would happen if Gonzo and Cookie Monster got together in a biblical sense. Probably designed by someone who was totally tripping on acid. Called "G-Wiz" when its fans said, "Gee whiz, what the fucking hell is that thing?"

Basically G-Wiz is the result of what would happen if Gonzo and Cookie Monster got together in a biblical sense. Probably designed by someone who was totally tripping on acid. Called “G-Wiz” when its fans said, “Gee whiz, what the fucking hell is that thing?”

 

2. Jazz Bear- Utah Jazz

Basically reminds me of what would happen if an Ewok had gotten together with Chewbacca. That or if Smokey the Bear had gotten too friendly with a lady Sasquatch.

Basically reminds me of what would happen if an Ewok had gotten together with Chewbacca. That or if Smokey the Bear had gotten too friendly with a lady Sasquatch.

 

3. Hip Hop the Rabbit- Philadelphia 76ers

Basically he looks like if Bugs Bunny worked for the Barksdale Organization on The Wire. That what would happen if Bugs Bunny had mated with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, I'm sure his swag is going to keep him from being fired. Oh, yeah, he did get fired.

Basically he looks like if Bugs Bunny worked for the Barksdale Organization on The Wire. That what would happen if Bugs Bunny had mated with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, I’m sure his swag is going to keep him from being fired. Oh, yeah, he did get fired.

 

4. Rumble the Bison- Oklahoma City Thunder

Basically he's the result of what would happen if Chewbacca had gotten together with the Minotaur. Doesn't look like an actual bison at all. Rather it's kind of offensive to American bison, particularly in Oklahoma.

Basically he’s the result of what would happen if Chewbacca had gotten together with the Minotaur. Doesn’t look like an actual bison at all. Rather it’s kind of offensive to American bison, particularly in Oklahoma.

 

5. Burnie- Miami Heat

Of course, after putting up with this horrifying cantaloupe nosed Sesame Street reject, I can see why Lebron James decided to go back to Cleveland. Seriously, he inspires nightmares not spirit.

Of course, after putting up with this horrifying cantaloupe nosed Sesame Street reject, I can see why Lebron James decided to go back to Cleveland. Seriously, he inspires nightmares not team spirit.

 

6. Stuff the Magic Dragon- Orlando Magic

Stuff the Magic Dragon is: A. Designed by a 5 year old or by some guy on acid who was a fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary. B. Originally going to be called "Puff the Magic Dragon," but the Orlando Magic was sued by the 1960s folk trio for copyright infringement. C. An alien from outer space. D. A muppet character reject from Sesame Street. Or E. All of the above.

Stuff the Magic Dragon is: A. Designed by a 5 year old or by some guy on acid who was a fan of Peter, Paul, and Mary. B. Originally going to be called “Puff the Magic Dragon,” but the Orlando Magic was sued by the 1960s folk trio for copyright infringement. C. An alien from outer space. D. A muppet character reject from Sesame Street. Or E. All of the above.

 

7. Pierre the Pelican- New Orleans Pelicans

The good news is that the New Orleans Pelicans finally managed to make a chicken mascot that's bound to strike fear and inspire nightmares in those who lay eyes on him. The bad news is that Pierre is not supposed to be a chicken.

The good news is that the New Orleans Pelicans finally managed to make a chicken mascot that’s bound to strike fear and inspire nightmares in those who lay eyes on him. The bad news is that Pierre is not supposed to be a chicken.

 

8. Go the Gorilla- Phoenix Suns

Only the Phoenix Suns could think of a mascot by dressing a guy in a gorilla suit and a Phoenix Suns jersey. However, our culture has been well accustomed to not taking people in gorilla suits seriously though gorillas are animals nobody would want to mess with.

Only the Phoenix Suns could think of a mascot by dressing a guy in a gorilla suit and a Phoenix Suns jersey. However, our culture has been well accustomed to not taking people in gorilla suits seriously though gorillas are animals nobody would want to mess with.

 

9. Coyote- San Antonio Spurs

Of course, there are two things this Arizona coyote seems to enjoy: rallying the crowd for the Arizona coyotes and smoking crystal meth. Seriously, look at his eyes, there's clearly something not right with him.

Of course, there are two things this Arizona coyote seems to enjoy: rallying the crowd for the Arizona coyotes and smoking crystal meth. Seriously, look at his eyes, there’s clearly something not right with him.

 

10. Sir CC- Cleveland Cavaliers

With Sir CC, all the dashing swashbuckling heroes of 17th century France are reduced to an idiotic caricature in this guy. Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers should just stick with Moondog and dump him.

With Sir CC, all the dashing swashbuckling heroes of 17th century France are reduced to an idiotic caricature in this guy. Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers should just stick with Moondog and dump him at least before Alexandre Dumas’ ghost rises out of his grave.

 

11. Thunder- Golden State Warriors

What the hell is this? Seriously, I almost thought it was either Nightcrawler's estranged brother or a guy who once tried out for Blue Man Group before finding out it wasn't a boy band. Still, I hear he was fired from the team for steroid use in 2011 and has been spotted last year in a Chinese opium den.

What the hell is this? Seriously, I almost thought it was either Nightcrawler’s estranged brother or a guy who once tried out for Blue Man Group before finding out it wasn’t a boy band. Still, I hear he was fired from the team for steroid use in 2011 and has been spotted last year in a Chinese opium den.

 

12. Grizz- Memphis Grizzlies

Grizz's dream was to be the first bear to be a chemical engineer and had a lot of great ideas for shampoo. Unfortunately, being a bear, he was unable to secure any meaningful employment and became a mascot for the Memphis Grizzlies instead.

Grizz’s dream was to be the first bear to be a chemical engineer and had a lot of great ideas for shampoo. Unfortunately, being a bear, he was unable to secure any meaningful employment and became a mascot for the Memphis Grizzlies instead. He is not happy about it.

 

13. Brooklyn Knight- Brooklyn Nets

Let's see, this is perhaps one of the worst NBA mascots ever and not because he looks as if he could be a half-brother to Skeletor or possibly Lady Gaga. I mean he's named after a porn star, has no connection to the team name or where they play, has no face, and scared children. I mean he seems more suited for a supervillain with designs for world domination in an action movie than as an NBA sports mascot. Let's just say that any knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail would've made a better mascot for the Nets. At least Spamalot played on Broadway.

Let’s see, this is perhaps one of the worst NBA mascots ever and not because he looks as if he could be a half-brother to Skeletor or possibly Lady Gaga. I mean he’s named after a porn star, has no connection to the team name or where they play, has no face, and scared children. I mean he seems more suited for a supervillain with designs for world domination in an action movie than as an NBA sports mascot. Let’s just say that any knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail would’ve made a better mascot for the Nets. At least Spamalot played on Broadway.

 

14. King Cake Baby- New Orleans Pelicans

Of course, this mascot is perhaps the last thing you'd want at any baby shower, especially if you're the pregnant guest of honor. Seriously, he's basically what would happen if Big Boy and Chucky got together. Of courses, I may owe Pierre the Pelican an apology.

Of course, this mascot is perhaps the last thing you’d want at any baby shower, especially if you’re the pregnant guest of honor. Seriously, he’s basically what would happen if Big Boy and Chucky got together. Of courses, I may owe Pierre the Pelican an apology.

 

15. Lucky the Leprechaun- Boston Celtics

Only this walking mascot that depicts negative Irish stereotypes could make the Lucky Charms Leprechaun seethe with marshmallowy disdain that he'd probably send the Stay Puft Marshmallow Guy after him. I mean Lucky from the Boston Celtics makes leprechauns appear like such douchebags. Still, this mascot also projects bad stereotypes on the Irish as well.

Only this walking mascot that depicts negative Irish stereotypes could make the Lucky Charms Leprechaun seethe with marshmallowy disdain that he’d probably send the Stay Puft Marshmallow Guy after him. I mean Lucky from the Boston Celtics makes leprechauns appear like such douchebags. Still, this mascot also projects bad stereotypes on the Irish as well.

 

16. Hugo T. Hornet- Charlotte Hornets

Hugo is: A. From outer space. B. Created by someone on acid. C. Became this way after falling victim to some nuclear accident that left him not only human-sized but also blue and purple with yellow hair.  Or D. All of the above.

Hugo is: A. From outer space. B. Created by someone on acid. C. Became this way after falling victim to some nuclear accident that left him not only human-sized but also blue and purple with yellow hair. Or D. All of the above.

 

17. Mavs Man- Dallas Mavericks

Of course, the Thing never wanted his son Mavs Man to pursue a career in showbiz. Yet, because he didn't have super powers but inherited his father's skin, Mavs Man packed up and went to Dallas where he became a mascot to the Dallas Mavericks.

Of course, the Thing never wanted his son Mavs Man to pursue a career in showbiz. Yet, because he didn’t have super powers but inherited his father’s skin, Mavs Man packed up and went to Dallas where he became a mascot to the Dallas Mavericks.

 

18. Clutch the Bear- Houston Rockets

Aww, Clutch the Bear is so cute that I want to hug him and squeeze him and keep him forever and ever. Hey, wait a minute, a basketball mascot shouldn't resemble a stuffed animal you'd give a baby to. What am I thinking?

Aww, Clutch the Bear is so cute that I want to hug him and squeeze him and keep him forever and ever. Hey, wait a minute, a basketball mascot shouldn’t resemble a stuffed animal you’d give a baby to. What am I thinking?

 

19. G-Man- Washington Wizards

Good News: Well, at least he's not as bad as the G-Wiz mascot from earlier. Bad News: Looks as if he was a former member of Blue Man Group who was thrown out for steroid use.

Good News: Well, at least he’s not as bad as the G-Wiz mascot from earlier. Bad News: Looks as if he was a former member of Blue Man Group who was thrown out for steroid use.

 

20. Bowser- Indianapolis Pacers

Sure he may dunk, but he’s more appropriate as a mascot for some animal shelter or a children’s show character since he’s so cuddly. Doesn’t seem intimidating at all. Was sent to the dog pound in 2010 where he may have been put to sleep, but I’m not sure.

 

NHL

 

1. Fin the Whale- Vancouver Canucks

If keeping killer whales in captivity for shows at Sea World hurts orcas then having a terrifying Fin the Whale as a mascot for the Canucks isn’t far behind. Let’s just say while orcas aren’t cute and cuddly, Fin doesn’t seem to represent them in a good light, especially when he tries to bite off children’s heads. Boy, I hope he doesn’t do anything to that boy with cancer.

 

2. Wild Wing- Anaheim Ducks

Well, he's basically what you'd have if Jason Voorhees was played by Daffy Duck and he looks as if he's out for blood. Give him a machete and any hockey game can become a duck reenactment of Friday the 13th.

Well, he’s basically what you’d have if Jason Voorhees was played by Daffy Duck and he looks as if he’s out for blood. Give him a machete and any hockey game can become a duck reenactment of Friday the 13th on ice.

 

3. Spartacat- Ottawa Senators

At first, you'd think Spartacat would seem like a fairly badass mascot. However, noticing his cuddly demeanor and his Shaun White hair, you'd probably be disappointed. But this little girl seems to love him anyway.

At first, you’d think Spartacat would seem like a fairly badass mascot. However, noticing his cuddly demeanor and his Shaun White hair, you’d probably be disappointed. But this little girl seems to love him anyway.

 

4. Stinger- Columbus Blue Jackets

Let's see, he's not cute, he's not furry, and he's not very pleasant. In fact, he seems like he's getting ready to sting those mangy kids who won't get off his lawn. Let's just see a giant angry insect mascot is perhaps the last thing you want to see at a hockey game.

Let’s see, he’s not cute, he’s not furry, and he’s not very pleasant. In fact, he seems like he’s getting ready to sting those mangy kids who won’t get off his lawn. Let’s just see a giant angry insect mascot is perhaps the last thing you want to see at a hockey game.

 

5. Youppi- Montreal Canadiens

Youppi was actually a mascot for the Montreal Expos before moving to the Canadiens. Still, he kind of reminds me of a lovechild you'd expect between Bigfoot and Carrot Top. Or perhaps he's the product of Yukon Cornelius hooking up with the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer TV special.

Youppi was actually a mascot for the Montreal Expos before moving to the Canadiens. Still, he kind of reminds me of a lovechild you’d expect between Bigfoot and Carrot Top. Or perhaps he’s the product of Yukon Cornelius hooking up with the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer TV special.

 

6. Sparky the Ice Dragon- New York Islanders

Sparky is also an arena football mascot as well and probably should've stayed one. I mean dragons have no connection to the Islander name or New York. Seems more of a dragon for a children's show or Puff the Magic Dragon's evil twin brother. Also, he can't breathe fire, fly, and isn't a mascot for a team named the Dragons. Seriously, why New York, why?

Sparky is also an arena football mascot as well and probably should’ve stayed one. I mean dragons have no connection to the Islander name or New York. Seems more of a dragon for a children’s show or Puff the Magic Dragon’s evil twin brother. Also, he can’t breathe fire, fly, and isn’t a mascot for a team named the Dragons. Seriously, why New York, why?

 

7. Harvey the Hound- Calgary Flames

I see no problem with a dog mascot. Yet, a dog with his tongue out all the time and there is no excuse that he's the mascot for the Calgary Flames. Well, other than being a possible creation of a 6-year old boy who was told to think outside the box. But you'd think a team like the Calgary Flames would have a better mascot perhaps one relating to fire. Torch from the Fantastic Four would've been a better choice or a fire breathing dragon.

I see no problem with a dog mascot. Yet, a dog with his tongue out all the time and there is no excuse that he’s the mascot for the Calgary Flames. Well, other than being a possible creation of a 6-year old boy who was told to think outside the box. But you’d think a team like the Calgary Flames would have a better mascot perhaps one relating to fire. Torch from the Fantastic Four would’ve been a better choice or a fire breathing dragon.

 

8. Al the Octopus- Detroit Red Wings

Of course, you'd think that the Detroit Red Wings would have a more appropriate mascot than a cartoonish purple octopus?  Of course, it has something to do with a team legend but still, it's a fucking purple octopus! It has absolutely nothing to do with Detroit, wings, or the color red. Also, it's kind of scary looking.

Of course, you’d think that the Detroit Red Wings would have a more appropriate mascot than a cartoonish purple octopus? Of course, it has something to do with a team legend but still, it’s a fucking purple octopus! It has absolutely nothing to do with Detroit, wings, or the color red. Also, it’s kind of scary looking.

 

9. Sabretooth- Buffalo Sabres

I thought Sabretooth tigers were badass vicious prehistoric big cats. This looks like a plush animal you'd give to your cousin. Seriously, this mascot is an insult to sabretooth tigers everywhere. Even Tony the Tiger seems more intimidating than that and he sells sugary cereal to children!

I thought Sabretooth tigers were badass vicious prehistoric big cats. This looks like a plush animal you’d give to your cousin. Seriously, this mascot is an insult to sabretooth tigers everywhere. Even Tony the Tiger seems more intimidating than that and he sells sugary cereal to children!

 

10. Thunderburg- Tampa Bay Lightning

You'd think a team called the Lightning would have a rather badass mascot, especially if its named Thunderburg. Yet, this mascot either reminds me of a man-sized but harmless insect you can trust your children with or a harmless insect-like humanoid space alien that won't frighten kids.

You’d think a team called the Lightning would have a rather badass mascot, especially if its named Thunderburg. Yet, this mascot either reminds me of a man-sized but harmless insect you can trust your children with or a harmless insect-like humanoid space alien that won’t frighten kids.

 

11. Stormy- Carolina Hurricanes

You'd think a team like the Carolina Hurricanes would have a mascot that pertained to, well, hurricanes, especially with the name Stormy. Apparently they decided to go with a pig named Stormy. Of course, North Carolina has a lot of hogs and some of them may fall victim to hurricanes, but why? This doesn't make any fucking sense! Also, this mascot seems more appropriate for children's cartoon for God's sake.

You’d think a team like the Carolina Hurricanes would have a mascot that pertained to, well, hurricanes, especially with the name Stormy. Apparently they decided to go with a pig named Stormy. Of course, North Carolina has a lot of hogs and some of them may fall victim to hurricanes, but why? This doesn’t make any fucking sense! Also, this mascot seems more appropriate for children’s cartoon for God’s sake.

 

12. Sully and Force- Vancouver Canucks

Now having a terrifying killer whale mascot was one thing. But these guys, why do they even exist? Is Vancouver getting desperate for more mascot appeal? These green men are freaky and seem rather obnoxious. Seriously, what the hell Vancouver?

Now having a terrifying killer whale mascot was one thing. But these guys, why do they even exist? Is Vancouver getting desperate for more mascot appeal? These green men are freaky and seem rather obnoxious. Seriously, what the hell Vancouver?

 

13. Bernie the Saint Bernard- Colorado Avalanche

Of course, Saint Bernards are tough dogs known for rescuing people buried by avalanches. Yet, most people would look at Bernie and think of that dog from the Beethoven movie series.

Of course, Saint Bernards are tough dogs known for rescuing people buried by avalanches. Yet, most people would look at Bernie and think of that troublemaking dog from the Beethoven movie series, you know the films most people watch because of the G-rating.

 

14. Carlton the Bear- Toronto Maple Leafs

Sure polar bears are animals you don't want to mess with since they could rip your arm off. Yet, this bear seems more appropriate for a commercial advertising toilet paper that doesn't stick to your ass. Yeah, I'm talking about the snuggly Charmin commercials.

Sure polar bears are animals you don’t want to mess with since they could rip your arm off. Yet, this bear seems more appropriate for a commercial advertising toilet paper that doesn’t stick to your ass. Yeah, I’m talking about the snuggly Charmin commercials. They say he has a history of TV marketing perhaps as the BIMBO Bread Bear in Latin America? Certainly not the kind of bear that could rip your arm off.

 

15. Boomer the Cannon- Columbus Blue Jackets

Though Boomer certainly resembles a decent mascot, there's just one problem. When he debuted as a "a kid-friendly, cushy cannon character with a friendly face and fluffy moustache reminiscent of a Civil War-era general," the fans didn't take it too well. This is mostly for his so-called phallic appearance. Still, phallic or not, I think causing such controversy makes it worthy to add in the Pro Sports Mascot Hall of Shame.

Though Boomer certainly resembles a decent mascot, there’s just one problem. When he debuted as a “a kid-friendly, cushy cannon character with a friendly face and fluffy moustache reminiscent of a Civil War-era general,” the fans didn’t take it too well. This is mostly for his so-called phallic appearance. Still, phallic or not, I think causing such controversy makes it worthy to add in the Pro Sports Mascot Hall of Shame.