AMST301.AmericanIndianMascotDebate.2a

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E§33§>§. 62.30.330.522». 5:50:53 502»... 8 00:00. moan—0. 300:0: 0.. 90 5003...... 0.. 5.0 £3303... 595:0»... > 939.5? :25. 0.. 90 CM. 3.0:. .50 43:235. 0300 02.00.» 03.0: 3:. .088: :53 5.0032...» “0.. :03: 30.3330: .0 20:5 >303». P0... 05:» 030.»: v.3. 8 03.00. 50 000.30: .: “2.03. 8.5. Suzan Showmn Harjo M New: 11, ”9‘1 Fighting to Preserve the Legacy -and Future—0f Native Americans By GAYLE POLLARD TERRY ative Americans are an invisible minority except around Thanksgiving or ‘- when a Western hits the big screen. Their numbers are small. The 1990 Census counted just under two million—up from 250,000 at the turn of this century but way down from the 50 million who lived here in 1492, the year Christopher Columbus “discovered" America. Although integral to the g history of this nation, they are rarely championed, except for their ' kindness to the Pilgrims centuries ago. They are routinely ridiculed when sports teams take the field. - - The Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves and Florida State Seminoles are among thousands of similarly named professional, college and high-school teams, complete with dehumanizing mascots dressed in feathers and war paint. These cartoonish caricatures either lead “war cries” or do the Tomahawk Chop. It’s enough to make one sports-loving Cheyenne woman turn off her TV. It’s also enough to make Suzan Shown Harjo take her fight to court, and to Congress. Harjo, who heads the Washington-based Morning Star Institute, is the lead petitioner in a lawsuit filed with the US. Patent and Trademark Office to force the Washington Redskins to change its name, mascot and logo. She also works on legislation to protect the rights of America’s indigenous people;~ i preserve their languages and traditions; reduce their high levels of poverty, alcoholism and unemployment, and safeguard their sacred lands. An Ma”-..- f uestion: Is Thanksgiving a difficult time . for you? .. Answer: Well, no. The spirit of Thanksgiving should be the spirit of all people, all the time. As a traditional Indian woman, one thing I’m obliged to do .is greet the day and end the day with .prayers of thanks for everything and every being of Mother Earth, not just for "the people but for all the creatures and beings that live.. . . I don’t have a problem with Thanks- iigiving as such, if people would go forward in that spirit. I do have a problem with some of the stereotypical imaging of Native people, which occurs around .{Thanksgiving}, that continues to keep us in the past tense and suggest we are anomalies in the present with no real future. Q: What kind of stereotypes? . A: On Thanksgiving, the image is of the benevolent “Noble Savage” giving land, giving food, giving a home and shelter to = . ,people who presumably on the other 364 - days steal it from the “savage.” At least it ' is a benevolent stereotype, but still it is not useful to have anything that is I stereotypical or keeps people positioned Sovw’time in the last century. : SOIL“. . Q: Is there no good stereotype? I stereotype. Whether _a stereotype is good i or bad, it still reduces people or a person ; ' i to a consumable. easily digestible, pre- : ijudged image or word. It sets up a system > of prejudice either for or against a person. ., Eor a people and, in that way, denies the a, ; humanity of that person or people . . . or i it wrongly characterizes people. Q: How do you fight stereotypes? A: By each person trying to develop :their oWn peace in the World and their own respect, then according that to every :situation and person they encounter. 'That’s everything, from asking people fhow they wish you to address them to .how they wish you to behave toward t I ' gthem—then you just do it Q: How do you prefer to be character- ; ized? By race or ethnicity? A: I want to be known as a Cheyenne 3 woman who is also culturally ‘Muscogee. Q: As a group? A: I prefer Native people, because we ' xarean indigenous people. Indian is the term of art in American law, and it’s hard A: There is no such thing as a good to get away from that. It’s the term of art : in the Constitution. It’s flat out wrong. but it is hard to get around it. Some use Native American, but a lot of people consider themseIVes Native American if they aren’t first—generation people here, and, of course, we predate the Americas by a millennium or so. . . . We haven’t decided on a collective term. We’re trying to 'get people not to call ' us had names like “Redskin,” a “buck" or a “brave" if you see an Indian man. Or if you see an Indian woman, not to call us “maidens” or “sq’uaWs.” That’s a word, Algonquin in origin, that means ', vagina, which the French and British started using to refer to all Indian women. ,_ Q: What is the status of your suit against i the Washington Redskins? ‘ ' . * A: We won an important first round. Pro Football Inc. tried’to hays the case x dismissed, but they were struck down by . _the US. Patent and Trade Office this i ; year. We were told to proceed. _ Q: Did you try to talkwith theowner of ' , therRedsIcins before mam-tr}? '- ‘a A: When I was the director of the _i National congress of Amerle‘an Indians, = we tried to contact Jahk’) Kat Cooke to 1 meet with us, and he just igngred us, just -, flat out didn’t respondi- . . I about 1987 01388, he re'gpon _ _ .. ~ ; wire-service story. staring- ..‘ . lchance in hell the name isg " a changed, because it would cost-too much ' money and the name not derogatory, ‘ which is pretty arro . tof him.'-:It’s not ‘ derogatory to him because he’s a rich, old fiwhite man. He’s in another class, other ithan the offended class, so it’s not his . place to say it’s not derogatory. _ 3 ‘Q: Have you hadgmore success with 'A: We have collectively;I’m a sup~ .3 porter from the sidelines—in getting rid !of Little Red fromthe University of 30klahoma'. . . . .The Stanford Indians >_‘_ .-. , 1v- u.— "um changed their name. The Dartmouth I . Indians changed theirname. . ,. ' I’m really heartened by a lot of big schools around the country ,',that ar changing their team names friim‘lndians and Redskinsd was just out in'Louisville, =Ky;,'.rateathe.. requestof the; Jefferson CountyS‘choOl Board, to talk-with stu~ ' gents at three high schools that are ;- “named after Indians. .- Theworst one is *‘the Redskins of Seneca High School. Their mascot is actually drawn by Al Cap, who gave them permission to use, Lone- some Polecat, a real Little Red Sambo image, even}. worse than Chief Wahoo of the Indians in Cleveland. The'county directed them to remove all ibffensive mascots and images and names . . . by Dec. 31. That is a really good'signof a America growing up and shining a light on racrsm. i z i 1 ?_ l a Q: Why is this important? A: It’s awfully important to clear away this underbrush of stereotypical images ; and cartoonish portrayals of us so that we ’ can protect our images. . . It would be wonderful to have big- budget films actually done by lndians, not just Indians as the scouts, as we've seen in this modern crop of movies, but Indians as the directors, the producers and in the premier spots—Indians in the lead roles—— not as the sidekick in a Lone Ranger and Tonto relationship, Native people actually portraying what it is they wish to portray about themselves. ‘Q: What movies would you single out? A: Hollywood seems to go through stages . . . Despite the fact they uSed a lot of Lakota people throughout “Dances With Wolves," it still says, at the end of the movie, that's the end of the Sioux . Nation in the 18903. For heavens sakes! The Sioux Nation is the third—largest Indian nation by population in the US. You can see that in “Cheyenne Au- tumn.” The two Geronimo movies de- ‘clared the Apaches dead, buried and gone at the end of the last century. . . . You can see that in the “The Last of the Mohicans." When the punch line is the pebple died a long time ago, the message is, say a prayer for the dead and wring your hands, and not that there is some- thing that can be accomplished in this time and someone has any responsibility. Q: What’s wrong with these portrayals? A: The longer I work in public policy, the more important I see this issue of telling our own stories, because members of Congress are no different than the rest of Americans in having these stereotypes about Native people. Public policy is not done in any positive way for cartoons, or for people who are already dead, or people who don’t have a future . . . ' There is a whole different language about us. We don’t eat com—we-eat, , . maize. We don’t walk, skip or jump—we roam. We don’t have music or songs—we have chants. We don’t have church services—we have rites. All that suggests we are either not here or we are so different that we don’t fit any place. Q: Can you think of any positive por- trayals in movies or television? A.- “Northern Ehrposure" does a great job. Each of the Native people is a distinctive person and has their own level of cultural intrigue. Arthur Penn did a good job in “Little scene was excellent. It. was about one small child and how it might affect that individual, and the pony screaming and how everything seemed suspended in time . . . and how legends grow from historical fact to tall tale. Kevin COStner, in ,“Dances With Wolves,” got the kids right. He took little kids beyond the baby—seal stage, which is how Native children are usually por- , trayed He has little boy-kids laughing, 1 playing . '. . They were doing things that» 1 kids do, and kids are the same, no matter Lwhat color, or what culture or what side of the border. ' Most of “Thunderheart” was good. It had some nice touches about Indian humor and’ how our elders aren’t'iust revered because. they have magic. They . are revered»because.»=-they snake you Big Man,” for the most part. He g...
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