Earlier this year, the Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of the American Indian, began a campaign to remove the use of the term "redskins" from the public discourse. Specifically from the culturally pervasive arena of sports.
In June the movement Change the Mascot was begun to persuade the Washington Redskins to change their mascot and logo from the racist and destructive use of the word "Redskins."
This is not a new struggle for native Americans. Over recent years they have been gathering a substantial "war council", if you will, of human rights organizations and political figures. Read the articles on the website. They've been working hard to help enlighten we conquering hordes.
I have become more aware of the plight of native Americans after the creation of "Proud To Be", a commercial produced and paid for by the Yocha Dehe Nation that was aired in seven major markets during the NBA Championship game this summer.
I am honored to know Marshall McKay, the Executive Chairman of the Yocha Dehe. When I congratulated him on this commercial, I was surprised to learn that I had no idea what the term "Redskins" really signified. I've since googled the many interpretations of the history of the word and it's usage. After hearing Marshall's explanation and reading the various google versions of the word and it's etiology, I am persuaded that there is really just one definition of this horrific term and that is:
The bloodied scalp or mutilated corpse of a native American brought in by bounty hunters to a government office for money.
And a multi-million dollar earning sports franchise is touting this as their logo and mascot.
Now that I am aware of this, I find it disgusting. And hateful.
Marshall is correct. We need to move away from hate speech.
It will help if we can remember the true history of this country and the reasons our native American neighbors have come to us with this request for respect and decency.
The Manataka American Indian Council has written a concise history of the arrival of the Pilgrims to what is now our United States. This history tells a far different story than the folkloric mythology of Thanksgiving as taught to our children in school. It wasn't at all the idyllic feast of turkey, corn bread and apple pie, with singing and dancing and the native Americans and Pilgrims being ever so happy together. It involved, among other devious and murderous things, a soccer game using decapitated Indian heads as the balls.
When my own son was six, I purchased the book "Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong" and read the true history of Thanksgiving to him. When I did this, I also told him that what he was learning in school is also fine, because it is the ideal we need to work toward now and in the future. I told him that school was teaching him the hope for us to be better. But he should never forget the truth of what happened.
I believe that right now is the time we should live up to this.
The founders of this country were refugees. They were illegal immigrants. They climbed onto this land carrying diseases that the native Americans had no immunity to. After being decimated by the smallpox and influenza, many were then herded and shipped back to England as slaves. The rest were murdered and hunted. Women and children were trapped in their homes and burned to death. Bounties were set for the collection of bloody scalps and mutilated bodies (redskins).
Of course they fought back as best they could. They were marked for extinction by a conquering invader who stole their crops, claimed ownership of their home and decided they were godless heathens who were of lesser entitlement to existence than their holy Pilgrim selves. But, as history has it correctly, the native Americans lost. Though we were kind enough to give what was left of the tribes the worst real estate we could find for their reservations and allowed them sovereignty to fend for themselves. Then we wiped our hands, turned our backs and left them alone.
Some of the tribes have managed, over the years, to create great wealth. Some through their art and farm products. But mostly through the creation of casinos where wealthy descendants of the conquering invaders can come and spend money. Some tribes have been so successful that there is now a conflict over the issue of collecting state taxes on the gaming revenues. Because how dare they do well, when we finally managed to put them under thumb with such satisfying finality? They do pay federal taxes, because the United States government has an obligation to protect them and provide certain federal benefits. Though they have no representation in our congress or senate. Now we want to tax them on a state basis, even though we provide no services to them whatsoever at that level.
Once a conquering invader, always a conquering invader.
This is the time that we must finally look at the history as it really happened. It's time to move past that and respect our indigenous neighbors and give them the respect they deserve as human beings and fellow citizens of our larger world. At the very least.
It's time to stop the hate speech for starters.
It starts with you and me.
Change the Mascot.