The Lady Speaks

The Longest Walk Ends

They started at Alcatraz on February 11th.

Five months. Two routes. Over 4,000 miles. From sea to shining sea.

On foot.

175 days (4200hrs.) ago walkers from all over Indian country as well as international allies embarked on a journey that carried them through rain, snow, and even a tornado.

Two paths were taken to make the journey, both a Northern and Southern route, in order to bring awareness to and address environmental and sacred sites protection, cultural survival, youth empowerment and Native American rights.

Thousands of walkers, which included new born babies and elders in their 90s, representing more than 100 Nations joined the Walk along the way. The Navajo (Dine’ Nation), Hopi, Apache, Havasupai, Tunica-Biloxi, Anishinaabeg, Wintun, Hualapai, Lakota, Six Nations, Ute, Washo, and many others as well as representatives from New Zealand, Germany, Japan, Italy, Holland, Poland comprised the diverse Walk. As they walked they picked up more than 8,000 bags of trash on the roads they traveled.

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July 11, 2008 Posted by | America, Equality, Global Warming, Government, Human Rights, Native Americans, Planet Earth | 3 Comments

Is YOUR Mascot a Racial Stereotype?

“Chief Illiniwek” of the University of Illinois will perform for the last time tonight. In fact, as I write this, the student who dances as Chief Illiniwek may have already made history as the last person to do so.

From YahooSports:

The University of Illinois’ controversial American Indian mascot was set to perform his last dance, and men who have previously portrayed Chief Illiniwek said they want the tradition to live on in some form.

The mascot, whose fate was decided by school officials last week, will take center stage at Assembly Hall for one last performance during the men’s basketball game between Illinois and Michigan on Wednesday night.

[snip]

Removing the chief frees the university of NCAA sanctions after the organization deemed Illiniwek — portrayed by buckskin-clad students who dance at home football and basketball games and other athletic events — an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the school from hosting postseason athletic events.

I applaud the decision of the University of Illinois to comply with NCAA regulations and join the 21st century in ending the use of a stereotype.

Now, it’s past time for state and regional high school sports leagues to follow the NCAA’s lead and mandate an end to “an offensive use of American Indian imagery.”

My daughter’s school calls itself, no kidding, the Redskins.

I have a lot of problems with this, and have since we first moved here. Let me give you a few examples of what I find offensive: 1) in the sports section of their website (which I won’t link to, for privacy reasons) there are “cute” little caricatures of Indians in feathered headdress and buckskin leggings holding basketballs, pretending to be swimming, performing a split and holding pompoms, 2) their mascot is a chief in feathered headdress, 3) there’s a freakin’ tipi on the track/football field!

For one thing, they’ve mixed up their tribes. The Plains Indians wore the feathered headdress seen on the mascot, not the Susquehannas and/or the Lenni Lenape (Eastern Delaware Nation) which actually lived in this area. Also, the Native tribes of this area lived in longhouses, not tipis.

This is important to note because the school is about to celebrate its quasquicentennial (125 years) and thus, was founded about the time of the Indian wars. Back in the early years of the school, people weren’t thinking about ethnic stereotypes, they were busy reading about the Bighorn, Sand Creek and Pine Ridge massacres. (Although, back then, they didn’t call them massacres. They were “battles” won or lost by the Army.)

Second, the administrators, boosters, players, etc, don’t seem to understand that the word “Redskin” is an ethnic slur. One of the most offensive phrases used by this school – and its faculty, students, and alumni – is: “Redskin Pride.” Literally, this phrase makes me gag.

Let’s be honest. This is a small school district, 95% or so white. There’s little native ancestry here, if only because their ancestors wiped out the native populations with their diseases and their wars. These people have a misguided sense of pride if they can use the word “Redskin” as if it were some type of positive attribute – one to which they have no claim.

Over the summer, my mom got into a bit of a verbal tiff with a booster who had the utter audacity to say they weren’t demeaning anyone. It was, she said, a way of “honoring” the Native peoples.

Huh?

How utterly stupid. As a person of Native ancestry, I don’t feel “honored.” I feel insulted. My Native ancestors were not “Redskins.” Those ancestors were of the Bear Clan of the the People of the Standing Stone (Oneida Nation) of the Six Nations of the Iroquois.

The Six Nations’ Articles of Confederacy – creating the oldest known participatory democracy – later inspired the framing of the Constitution of the United States. In fact, the Six Nations’ confederation was considered so important to the writing, a delegation of Iroquois were asked to meet with the Continental Congress, and John Hancock was given an Iroquois name: Karanduawn, or the Great Tree. (Read more.)

Do you think those whose ancestors were slaves, would feel “honored” if the team was called the “Niggers”? Do you think anyone of Jewish ancestry would feel “honored” if the team was called the “Kikes”? Do you think any of the multitudes in this district who came from Irish and Italian immigrants would feel “honored” if the team was the “Micks” or the “Wops”?

Of course not!

Those are all derogatory words used to debase another race or belief or ethnic background, and are recognized as such by nearly every sentient being in this country. There is no such recognition for the constant slurs against Native peoples used by sports teams across the nation, professional or otherwise.

Let’s put it this way, for those still so blind that they continue defending the use of “Redskins” for their high school teams: Would you feel comfortable calling anyone a “Redskin” while you were busy dumping money in a slot machine at Turning Stone or Salamanca?

Ooh! I saw that! Made you a bit uncomfortable, eh? It’s one thing to yell “Go Redskins” at a football game, and quite another to actually use it in a place where the owners are “Redskins.”

It’s past time for all sports teams to replace names and mascots which represent “an offensive use of American Indian imagery.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | America, Constitution, Education, Ethnic Stereotypes, Native Americans, Pennsylvania, Protest, Sports | 10 Comments