I was conducting some very serious research on priapism in the ranks of Custer’s 7th Cavalry when I stopped to read a feculent piece in The Denver Post Opinion section. It was about 500 words of the same hackneyed argument Suzan Shown Harjo has been subjected to for decades from every privileged jackass who has ever waved his overripe entitlement in her face.
And, so, here it is again—a response to more of the tired and the banal.
The Post story, with the headline, “Viva LaVeta Redskins!,” is about LaVeta High School in Colorado which recently voted 3-2 to keep the school’s mascot the “Redskins,” and the author, Dick Hilker, who’s a bimonthly columnist with the Post, is over the moon with the decision.
“OK,” he writes, “I concede the name may be offensive to many Native Americans and probably should be tomahawked in D.C. But the Political Korectness Kops are so inane with much of their never-ending outrage over school mascots and various words and phrases (see ‘sissies’) that it is enjoyable when someone tells them ‘enough!’”
He goes on to ask: “Why is it perfectly fine for Florida State to be the Seminoles and Utah to be the Utes, but not OK for the University of North Dakota to be the Sioux? Why is it noble to name teams Vikings, Prospectors, Miners, Aztecs, Spartans, Trojans and Irish, but not Indians?”
OK, folks. We’ve covered this ground before—ad nauseum—and since Hilker is an old bugger, I would’ve hoped at some point he would’ve heard the Native American response somewhere. Maybe at one of Colorado’s many faux authentic Indian trading posts? No. We don’t go there. What for? We can make those things ourselves, thank you.
But again, our response, the one I will repeat here, has been out there for literal decades:
One Native American nation may not be anything like the other, by way of language, culture, politics, etc. Also, treaties. The prose in a treaty written for one tribe was not the white lies written in another. That said, the Seminoles are not the Utes, the Lakota are not the Mohawk, so on and so forth. To make it even clearer, look at it this way, France is not Italy. They’re different. Get it? OK.
Now, Florida State University is the Seminoles because the Seminoles said the university could use its people’s image as their mascot, but the Seminoles don’t speak for all nations, just like the Lakota don’t speak for all nations, the Choctaw do not speak for all nations, etc., etc. Lo, let it be known that I, for one, do not approve of any Native Americans dehumanized as mascots, even FSU. It doesn’t bode well for all Native Americans as a collective, and that’s how this country sees it’s indigenous population – one big fucking tribe. Getting an American to differentiate Native American nations is like asking them to differentiate indigenous North American produce from imported European produce. “What’s a traditional Native American food?” the white lady asks. … Oh my God, not that one again.
Now, once again, here we go: Everyone, a Viking is a job. A prospector is a job. A miner is a job. An Indian is not a job. An Aztec is not a job and they shouldn’t be a mascot! We are a people – like the Irish, which Hilker brought up so smugly as if he’s the first tired voice to ever bring up the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in this argument. Sweet Jesus. Who are these people?
Firstly, the Notre Dame mascot is a leprechaun—a mythical being. An Indian is not a mythical being. Secondly, this is not Ireland. Norte Dame isn’t offending the Irish in Dublin. But the Washington Redskins, the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves—they offend the Native American in our country whose official agenda from D.C. once was to annihilate the Native American through genocidal policies. That’s this country, and we, Native Americans, are dehumanized yet again – this time not solely with the Bible, but with more privilege, i.e. sports mascots and the like.
Now, it’s my turn to ask a question.
Do white parents share this information with their kids? I know for a fact that I’m repeating the same responses to the very same questions that my elders have suffered long before I was born. Yet, just like this dogged Dick Hilker, more white people, even of my generation (I’m 31), will berate the Native American today with that same exhausted questions that have been around since the criminal Nixon was in office. Do us a favor, do yourselves a favor—share our responses with your kids. We need to move on to the next chapter. We’ve done this one already.
OK, now, let me explain something to people like Dick. Dear dicks of the world, it has been proven by empirical, demonstrable studies that Native Americans as mascots has a detrimental adverse affect on the psychological health of Native American children. Now, it’s my understanding that the U.S. is eager to see American children succeed in life – at least this is the pitch we hear every election year. So, go ahead, be livid at the—what did Dick call them? Or yes … the “Political Korectness Kops,” but know that we’re here doing exactly what you would do for your kids in your community: making sure that their mental stability isn’t compromised by assholes who just say they’re having a “good ol’ time” and “this is my family tradition!” No. Any levelheaded, responsible adult who is aware that a certain act or habit is harming any child would work diligently to see that which is harmful is abolished. The irresponsible adult is the one who is aware of an injurious exploit yet makes excuses to continue in said exploit.
That said, don’t be a Dick. Be an adult.
And because I believe in providing resources, here is the link to the study concerning Indian mascots and how they harm Native American children.
Now, back to the research re: priapism, Custer’s men and the rumor that Abraham Lincoln hung those 38 Native American men at one time because he wanted to prove that he was racist enough, but not too racist.
Simon Moya-Smith, Oglala Lakota, has a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in New York City.