For quite some time, the Washington Redskins or Cleveland Indians mascots' images never bothered me.
Then something happened and I began viewing the images as stupid Americans doing what stupid Americans have always done: ignorantly going about the world insulting people. There is much to be said about good manners but these sort of Americans just don’t get that. It is like they are raised with no loving Mothers or caring Fathers. Even so, I thought there was opportunity in these images showing up every once in a while. Not all Americans are stupid. Thank the gods for that.
I believe there are good Americans, don’t get me wrong. I just wish there were more of them. Or, that they were more audible.
The mascots, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Mascots provide the sport viewing audience an image of their favorite teams to relate with. But when a mascot is an image of a people much thought must go into what that image is going to be. To us being called Wahoo or Redskin does not bring back happy memories or instill in us a feeling that we are being honored. Their response to the initial complaints we had voiced were responded to with the argument that they consider those images and names as complimentary because they are trying to remember us (or, so they say today). Even if that compliment is made in a strange way like the stupid shit-eating grin of the Cleveland Indians mascot. I am afraid we have rushed passed the teaching opportunities those images created for us to teach people who we really are and what we are really like.
That is right, at one time there was opportunity when seeing an American owned team with a Native mascot. When in the company of robust Redskin fans, or Cleveland Indian fans the opportunity is always present for a Native individual to say, "Hey, bud, go team and by the way we really don't look like that. Hey, bud, did you know that baseball was derived from both Cricket and an old Iroquois game called Long Ball? Hell yea, no shit boss. We not only helped your Pilgrim relatives survive their first winter, we gave you your great American pass time. In fact, in terms of football, it was Pop Warner and the Indians at Carlisle Military School that reinvented football when they began using the forward pass and other offensive strategies. Yea, that blew my mind too when I learned that. In fact I have the issue of the Sports Illustrated magazine that proves that right here in my back pocket, you can see for yourself."
But then things went terribly wrong. The fans, when this issue became, well, an issue they began asking/telling me (around 1987), "Hey you don't mind the Redskin team name do you?"
But one thing leads to another: They started calling me Chief. Next thing I know I was being treated like the mascot, the inanimate object mascot. That really bugged me. Then they grew disgruntled because they had to think, and that hurt their heads. Subsequently, their Chief did not like them anymore. And they would say, "It's only a game, a team name, why can't you people get over it. All that was sooo long ago. We think you should like the name, it honors you."
Well, the team name was not ever used endearingly. The term Redskin was not utilized so honorably at Wounded Knee that cold December day in 1890 while the Hotchkiss guns and carbines were mowing down 300+ starving and freezing people, children among them.
Well, that did it for me. "I can't get over it." Even the Jews had the Nuremburg trials to settle their matters and a whole country offered to them, did they get over it?
My grand-parents, who were in my life till I was 12 yrs old and made great impressions on me were born before the Indian Wars were over. 1886. My grand-mothers were 5 and 6 years old when Wounded Knee happened. That is how fresh this new Country’s evil history is to my people. One of my good friends is the last kid to attend boarding school from my rez. He went to Thomas Indian School. All those shitty experiences are still with us real Redskins.
But when the fans and now the owners began telling me what I should think soon after they began telling me what I should feel and what I should believe. All that just reminded me of exactly who we are in the minds of many Americans. We are quaint and just a false memory.
It is that sort of thinking, and that belief system that allows them to convince themselves that they are the best in the world. Imagine being so full of yourself like that. Of all the world's cultures the Americans think they are king of the hill. Closest to God's heart, the good conscience of a whole world of humans. Hitler thought the same way. And that is the exact thinking that allowed slavery to last as long as it did, assuming it ever ended in this country. Now we have Corporate slavery but that is another story. The same pro-mascot thinking is the same thinking that allows rich men and rich women to treat the working poor the way they do in this country. And, that my dear fragile snow flakes is a very clinically sick mental state of being.
So, today I don't like so much the mascot images, but hey even bad art is art. But, I hate to my last breath the thinking, the rationale and the logic that is behind the stupid images that in their mind represents whole peoples.
I don't mind my brothers and sisters calling each other Redskins. I think that is cool. It keeps the memory alive of a real history of real events that were perpetrated on the real Americans (Natives were called Americans in the era of the Pilgrims and Colonists, hence the First Americans moniker). Imagine this, the most innocent and welcoming of the East coast Natives who first made contact with and welcomed the Pilgrims were hunted down with dogs, skinned sometimes while still alive and those skins were worth money to those good people turned colonists. Men, women and children, they all had their bounty prices. The redder the better. We should never forget this dishonor until reparations are made. And if us calling ourselves Redskins is one way to maintain that memory, so be it. I have my art too, as tasteless and offensive as it may be from time to time.
But it is too much to swallow when the American sports fans say that the team name Redskins is used to honor us. They are trying to hide their history, rewrite it, redefine it. That is wrong. The sports profession and their devoted fans can't be allowed to go Orwellian with double speak. Where was the country's honor for us at Sandy Creek or during Sullivan's Campaign? They cannot be allowed to forget about themselves and how over a brutal history they got what they have today. A country's worth of stolen Indian land built upon with African and Asian slave labor.
Our relationship with the new American immigrant began long ago with respect, and that went quickly down the tubes because the Colonial leaders and missionaries mis-took our graciousness for weakness. Our resources as plunder. They mistook our spirituality for heathenism. To regain the respect that was lost between our peoples and to nurture that, the American sports fans and team owners have to find it in themselves the road of respect and the path to acknowledgement of historical facts.
Maybe they can even find the nature of the words good relations. The good neighborliness that once defined our interactions, diplomacy and trade.