Thursday, March 31, 2005

How About a Tomahawk to the Face, huh?

What's wrong with this picture? Well, first off, Native Americans don't smile. Second, they don't wear feathers; they wear pillows so they don't break their skulls when they pass out drunk. That's probably not funny actually. The conversation over representations of Native Americans in collegiate and professional sports made headlines today. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The team symbol with the shortest drive to St. Louis won't make the trip, "Chief Illiniwek" will stay home at the University of Illinois.

It does amaze me that these Native American caricatures still exist in American sports. Chief Illiniwek in particular dates back to 1928. Supporters of the chief say he is a tribute to Native American heroism. Surely American settlers were impressed in the way Sioux Plains Indians fought valiantly with bows and arrows while Custer and such hurled smallpox, but something like the name "Redskin" - a deragatory term created by whites - is a moniker that no one can take pride in.

What amazes me more is a Sports Illustrated poll from 2002 which found that 83% of Native Americans did not mind the use of Indian symbols in professional sports. How do you explain this? With no proper education on reservations and a departure from oral traditions, it is scary to think that a people are losing touch with their core values.

Schools like the U of Minnesota refuse to play out-of-conference teams with Native American mascots; Portland's Oregonian decided not to print the names of such teams in its paper; and I won't even pay when I lose money at the Indian casino. It seems that the schools which sit on the largest Indian graveyards (Illinois, Michigan, Ohio) are the most inclined to have an Indian mascot. A true tribute to this people would be to divert recruiters from inner-city areas - like South Chicago and Detroit (which are no doubt in need too) - to reservations which are ultimately the most desperate.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure, words like "redskin" were initially deemed derogatory when they were used hundreds of years ago. However, with the passing of time I have no emotional reaction to hearing such a word as opposed to the n-word. Perhaps it's due to the marginalized native american culture that my insesitivity to the word has so been cultivated - as opposed to the vocal and public black rights movement that placed certain cultural restrictions on the n-word.

Just for that reason that our culture doesn't deem such a word to be offensive it implies that such a word no longer carries with it the negative connotation upon which it was founded (?).

Either way, to spend so much time deliberating the political correctness of such names is missing the entire point - what about the neglected tribes themselves who are struggling to maintain some semblence of dignity as their culture and society are plundered by the same legislation that was supposed to "give them freedom"? Where is the political correctness in that?

12:33 PM  

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