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Florida State University & Our Relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida

This guide will provide resources that speak to the evolving relationship between FSU and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Sports and Native American Imagery

The use of Native American imagery and symbols in sports is not unique to FSU. Several schools and professional sports teams have adopted either generic or nation-specific representations of Native Americans as mascots. While FSU avoids the term mascot since it does not reflect the relationship the university sustains with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, not all sports teams apply the same level of cultural sensitivity or engagement to their use of such imagery.

The 2016 FSU Homecoming Court stands with Miss and Jr. Miss Florida Seminole

Left: Four unknown people look at FSU Seminole logo designs. From FSU Libraries, Special Collections.
Right: The 2016 Homecoming Chief and Princess were crowned and the Homecoming Court was recognized during half-time at the FSU vs. Wake Forest game on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Doak Campbell Stadium. FSU Alumni Association Flickr photograph collection.

We can use photos and other archival materials to explore the changing uses of Seminole imagery at FSU.

In the undated photo on the left, we see four unnamed people viewing different designs of FSU logos with depictions of Seminole figures and symbols. We can guess that the photo was taken in the late 1940s or early 1950s from the style of dress shown and from the flyer hanging on the wall behind them. (The flyer mentions faculty "stunt night," an event reported on in yearbooks and the FSU student newspaper in the late 1940s and early 1950s.) However, this photo leaves many questions unanswered. Who designed the logos? Who are the people reviewing these designs and what was their role at FSU? How were members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida involved in this process, if at all?

In the photo on the right of the 2016 FSU Homecoming Court, we get a clearer sense of how members of the Seminole Tribe participated in this FSU event. As Beverly Bidney reported in the Seminole Tribune, Jr. Miss Florida Seminole Thomlynn Billie (far left) and Miss Florida Seminole Kirsten Doney (far right), both Tribal citizens, crowned the FSU Homecoming Princess, Megan Federico (center left), and FSU Homecoming Chief, Rashard Johnson (center right) at the homecoming football game.

Beverly Bidney, "Proud Moments for Princesses at FSU Homecoming," Seminole Tribune, November 10, 2016. Accessed June 29, 2023.

Search Strategies - The Problem with "Mascot"

Scholars studying the use of Native American imagery in sports should be aware that "mascot" is the most common vocabulary term used to describe such imagery and performance in the context of American sports. Similarly, library catalogs and databases also use the term "mascot." You may choose to use different language in your writing on the topic, but your search strategy should probably include the term "mascot," among others, in order to discover the wide range of writing on the subject.

Because FSU Libraries and most other libraries in the United States use the same terminology as the Library of Congress, you will find the "mascot" in our catalog and archival finding aids, even in places where we as a university would prefer not to use it.

Where to Search

Your best bet for finding books and articles about the use of Native American imagery and performance in sports is OneSearch, the main search box on the FSU Libraries websites. Since this topic is interdisciplinary in nature, OneSearch will have the largest number of relevant resources.

You might also consider the database SportDiscuss with Full Text, which specializes in scholarship about all aspects of sports, including business, sports medicine, and yes, even mascots.

Get Started: A Few Select Readings

Many of the specific sources cited in this guide about the relationship between the Seminoles and Florida State University relate to the use of imagery in sports. The following sources are just a few examples of scholars reflecting on and analyzing how and why Native American imagery is used in the popular sports arena.

Journal Articles and Long-form News Reporting


U.S. Government Documents

The Florida State University Libraries

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