UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues – supplemental submission

The Southeast Indigneous Peoples’ Center reached out to me via Twitter earlier this week, asking me to supplement their submissions to the UN in NY today and to Geneva in two weeks.  They had seen the work I was doing for #IndigenizeZuckerberg and also the mascot issue in Biloxi this past week.  This is their reviewed version of the piece I threw together to supplement their report on how the mascot issue is a form of hate crime in violation to UNDRIP:

Since Manifest Destiny first targeted the indigenous peoples of North America, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have become a marginalized race of Peoples, suffering worse afflictions than any other racial group in the United States.  The U.S. Government holds a special trust relationship with the hundreds of sovereign indigenous nations within the 50 states, yet treaty rights continue to be ignored and Indian services are severely neglected in federal spending priorities.  As a result, Reservations have become concentration camps where the descendants of genocide victims are expected to either lose their indigenous identities, leave, and assimilate, or to continue suffering in silence.  Centuries of wrongful U.S. policy has demonstrated the desire to erase cultural identity from the indigenous peoples, to reap tribal lands of resources for the benefit of the non-indigenous and leaving pollution in its wake, and continually neglect the high youth suicide rates, murdered and missing indigenous women, and discrimination on indigenous peoples by outside communities.

 

Not only is tribal self-determination not being adequately promoted, but mainstream America is being taught a biased history of the vast crimes committed on indigenous peoples.  Their skewed view is multiplied when their only modern exposure to Indigenous Peoples are the grotesque and stereotypical caricatures, racial slurs, and cultural appropriation used as mascots in educational systems and lucrative sports industries.  These inaccurate representations perpetuate ignorance and provide platforms for hate speech and the continued silencing of Indigenous Peoples who live in fear of verbal and physical repercussions to their dissent of such mistreatment.  The continued mascot issue therefore perpetuates and worsens the continued neglect in Indian Country.

 

The Onedia-commissioned study documents the direct impact these stereotyped imageries have on the self-worth of indigenous youth who already have the highest rates of suicide of any group in the country.  It also demonstrates how these images continue to teach non-indigenous youth prejudice, even if the mascots are meant to be positive and even if the children do not intend to learn racism.

 

According to the Aspen Institute,

• American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) poverty rates in 2009 were 23.6%

• AI/AN average household income was $33,300 versus a National average of $46,200 in 2000

• AI/AN in Indian Country have incomes of less than half the National average

• the IHS estimates, historically, annual Congressional appropriations have only met 52% of AI/AN healthcare needs

• in 2009, 24.1% AI/AN lacked health insurance coverage, yet had more than double the suicide rate, with indigenous teens the highest suicide rate of any group in the country, a 514% higher alcoholism mortality rate, a 177% rate of diabetes (and the highest Type 2 rates in the country), and 500% higher rates of tuberculosis.

• 16% of students at BIA schools in 2001 had attempted suicide in the preceding 12 months

• the second leading cause of death is suicide, 2.5 the national average, among AI/AN ages 15-24

• in 2003, the national graduation rate was 49.3% for AI/AN versus 76.2% for whites, 13.3% AI/AN got undergraduate degrees verses 24.4% for the general population

• drop out rates for AI/AN high school students are more than double the national average, and are over 50% in states with the highest AI/AN population

• AI/AN children make up 2% of American children, yet 8.4% of American foster care children

• violence accounts for 75% of deaths in AI/AN ages 12-20 years (malicious injuries, homicide, suicide)

 

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice:

• AI/AN women are 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually assaulted than women in the U.S. in general

• 1 in 3 AI/AN women will be raped in her lifetime versus 1 in 5 of American women in general

• a larger percentage of victimization against AI/AN women is committed by white offenders than by AI/AN offenders

 

All of these statistics are relevant to demonstrate how, across the board, AI/AN youth, women, and whole communities are suffering as a race at unacceptable rates.  The U.S. Government is obligated to provide services to these communities, and to promote self-determination.  However, self-determination requires self-sustainability in four community aspects: environmental, social, cultural, and economical.  All four of these components are being inadequately addressed if not completely neglected, as evidenced by these atrocious statistics.  Furthermore, the lack of education and the perpetuation of hate speech and silencing of indigenous peoples that revolves around the presence of indigenous mascots in non-indigenous communities directly contributes to these disparages.  These symbols encourage the dehumanization of human beings.  This dehumanization washes away identity and cultural significance, leading to the cultural appropriation of sacred indigenous symbols and beliefs.  The lack of proper education on indigenous histories and current issues contributes to this ignorance.  All in all, indigenous peoples are lumped together as a lesser human race and are silenced and continuously marginalized.  Youth have lower self-worth and self-respect, and suicide rates remain terribly high.  Indigenous women, by the thousands areraped, murdered, missing, and ignored by the populations who are statistically more likely to have committed the crimes in the first place.

 

So we ask, as indigenous youth who accepted the Gen-I challenge this year, are we expected to accept that we or 2/3 of our friends and family will be raped in our lives?  Are we expected to accept the perpetuation of dehumanization against us and all Indigenous Peoples through the continued use of native mascots in our schools and sports?  Are we supposed to lose more indigenous friendsto suicide, because we are just an expanding statistic?  Are we supposed to believe this is what is constitutional to Indigenous Peoples?  When will the international community stop ignoring the disparities in between indigenous and non-indigenous communities and the lack of education on indigenous realities in mainstream US?

 

Start with the easy fix:  Change how we educate Americans on Indigenous Peoples, and change how they view the mascot issue.  Banish all mascots and public uses of racial slurs, such as by the Washington football team, the Cleveland baseball team, and the hundreds of schools still using these images like the Biloxi Senior High School in Mississippi.

 

We are harassed, ridiculed, and live in fear of the consequences when we ask others to stop dehumanizing and mocking usWe fear for our lives and the lives of others, just because we are representing IndigenousPeoples in an overwhelming non-indigenous society.  

 

We ask: 

Why does the United States refuse to protect our rights as defined by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP)?

We recommend:

1. ALL RACIST MASCOTS eliminated before the close of schools June 1, 2015. Indigenous Peoples will define what is racist.
2. US comply with all Articles of the UN DRIP and eliminate all derogatory images of Indigenous Peoples and indigenous persons and culture and obtain permission to use indigenous cultural heritage in accordance with Article 11 and other relevant Articles of UN DRIP.


hope, and hypocrisy.

I decided I no longer want to wait to write this post, so I am writing this from my iPhone while I sit in my work truck, waiting for site construction work to start up again.  (At least I get to engineer outside this week.)

When it comes to social justice, creating equality, erasing prejudice, fighting global warming, etc…. Sometimes I just get downright depressed.  In one moment, I am so strong and so ready to make a difference, then in another I am deflated.  I look at the immensity of change needed and I feel defeated.  And when I end up talking in circles to people who don’t see my side, two things happen: 1. I start questioning why I am so headstrong in my opinions, and have to reassure myself that I am on the most open-minded side; and 2. I start really disliking people.  A generalization, yes, but sometimes humanity straight up depresses me.

I’ve worked for several years now on a clean water engineering project in Cameroon.  For the first couple years, I felt like I was responsible for fixing community sanitation and water problems.  After a long time of working with the community, learning their culture, and having heartfelt conversations in Cameroonian French about their views of the world – over some palm wine, of course – I began to realize was the one with the problem.  

My American experience had trained me to transpose my own understanding of how the world should be – and of how happiness should be quantified – so that I failed to see my own impact on the community.

I saw villages with not enough water projects.  I saw our own village only reaching so many households per water tap.  I saw kids in December 2012 trough January 2013 wearing the same clothes every day…and they were wearing the same clothes on my next visit in March 2014.  I saw poverty.  I saw a lack of impact.

What I wasn’t seeing is “wealth” that isn’t measured in U.S. dollars, “happiness” that isn’t quantified by gallons of clean water delivered.

These people in the village may have only received a small amount of clean water, but they are rich in culture and avocados, in music and laughter.  They may wear the same clothes on any ordinary day, but they don’t have a need for more.  What we were giving them was more than just an education on how and why to wash their vegetables and hands – it was also a sharing of cultures, a new perspective, and friendships.  We gave them RESPECT, and they gave it back by making us honorary nobles and queens of Batoula-Bafounda.  The King even stamped my passport with a jolly laugh of pride and power.

I bring this story back up because I think it reflects a couple lessons I have recently learned in my travels across four continents.  And I suppose it is fitting since I turned a quarter of a century old today: 1. Culture is the most important context, and 2. It’s not up to me to fix the whole world but 3. I will fix it through others if I mend what I can reach, because sometimes people are more broken than the planet, and there IS hope.

Reverend Daniel Budd of the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland – where I teach 8th graders on social justice – recently posted an opinion piece on Cleveland.com calling for Native American mascots to end.  This was a confidence booster for me as I respect all the things I have hear Reverend Budd preach on.  On Earth Day, he gave a sermon about Global Warming. In many ways, it was depressing – but he uplifted us by saying, We cannot expect to mend the whole world ourselves, but rather we can mend what is within our reach.

After a year of being away from the village in Cameroon, I returned and was met by a wall of screaming children.  The minute I set foot out of the passenger van, they flung themselves at me, shouting Linda!  (They nicknamed me that after hearing stories about my family, and liked the name of my late Aunt more than Kayla, apparently.)

I guess I had more of an impact than I ever realized, for these children told other children and some have even decided to do better in school so they can do more for their communities.  I saw the same effects while traveling in rural communities across India.  It’s amazing – and scary – to think so many children are watching me, maybe even making me a role model in their eyes.  We must always set the best examples.

As I see hope in this, I also see hope in the people I reach out to.  Some folks are quick to shy away when I make mention of the mascot issue, and I’m often afraid of droning on endlessly about it.  Some people won’t listen to me for a second.  Then I got to a peaceful demonstration to me ridiculed by a man in red face, being told I’m being honored by a self-proclaimed Apache in a chicken feather headdress, and being the background of several selfies of fans with Cleveland gear on and their middle fingers up.  “Go back to where you came from!” and wawawawawa sounds ensue.  All in the presence of indigenous children.

It sucks.  And I start to think it will always be this way.

Then a coworker, born and raised fan, posts my blog to his page on Opening Day.  A friend argues via text with me until I tell him “just read my blog”…and he later apologized and said he sees my side.  Another coworker listened to me in silence as I explained for an hour my experience and admitted he never saw it that way, and the mascot is an issue.  A 64-year-old construction worker drilled me with questions just two days ago.  He read some links I wanted to share and saw my side.  “I’m white, white people did horrible things, it wasn’t my fault but I mean just look at the blacks, still… It wasn’t my fault but it’s still happening and I’m old, I was raised prejudice, but I don’t want to be anymore.  I try hard, and folks need to try harder.  They need to be talking more about th, because the world is still so wrong.”

And then, as if by a miracle, this strong mother and Biloxi resident not only reached out to Deloria but she wrote this and posted it today: https://justabiloxigirl.wordpress.com/

One drop makes a ripple.  All of our honest work will pay off.  THERE IS HOPE.

And yet…

Only our HONEST work will get an HONEST outcome.  Only RESPECT will be rewarded by RESPECT.

When I posted the other day about what the alumni were saying, it was a way to expose the hypocrisy in their arguments.  These statements were on social media.  They clearly demonstrated the wrongness in the approach those individuals were using in their defense of “honor” and the mascot.

But I am very disappointed in some of you.

No one – NO ONE – is justified by attacking the people in the screen captures.  Engage in a meaningful dialogue, if you can and must, but if you have cyber bullied Lauren or any of the others from the Biloxi issue, then you have hypocritically undermined the work of both of respectful mascot debate and also the #IndigenizeZuckerberg movement.

Think about it.

Maybe it wasn’t many of you, I wouldn’t know.  None has retaliated by giving me your names.  However, if I were you, I would learn from Lauren’s examples and take ownership of what you have said.  Not just to Lauren, but to anyone.  You are not helping our cause, or yourself.

And, remember – children are always watching, always making role models.

we were told to learn the history.

So I did.  And I apparently know it better than the pro-mascot supporters of Biloxi, Mississippi.  Here is what I put together for my recent radio appearance on Native mascots, Biloxi, and the lack of history or honor in Biloxi’s stereotyping representation of members of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe:


I’m going to give a little information about the history of Biloxi, the city, its school, and its relationship with the Biloxi tribe.  Unfortunately, some of our allied Biloxi residents who wanted to provide more information from the local library informed me that the library is closed until Tuesday on account of the celebration of a Confederate Holiday.   So we will surely have more information once that date has passed:

 

In my experience thus far with this Biloxi mascot issue, outspoken advocates are nearly always alumni of the Biloxi school system.  I find this frustrating, considering we are dealing with the present.  In short, these folks need to “let go” and stop telling us we have “more important things to worry about” when we consider this something that directly affects our youth.  They, however, see this as something directly affecting their pride.  Every single piece of their evidence for why they should be the Biloxi Indians revolves around their history with the Biloxi tribe, their honoring the tribe, their receiving of a headdress or of permission to use its symbol from the Biloxi tribe, and their confidence in how their tradition will be easily defended by the Tunica-Biloxi tribe as soon as they hear back from them.  Well, many of these people are the same alumni who have said online that the Biloxi don’t have enough blood quantum for their voice to matter anymore.  So many of these people also claim Native blood, yet the demographics to both Oceans Springs and Biloxi, Mississippi show that predominantly white people inhabit these cities.  Out of the Native population, a fraction of a percentage of self-proclaimed indigenous peoples exist in both cities. Regardless, I will present a history of the city and the school, and Jean-Luc will fill us in about the relationship between the school and his tribe, and what he thinks about this situation.

 

According to the Biloxi, Mississippi Wikipedia page, Biloxi was the 3rd largest Mississippian city, behind Jackson and Gulfport, until Hurricane Katrina; now it has fallen to the 5thThe Wikipedia page makes no mention of the name’s origin or of any Indian tribes.  Instead, it talks about “Biloxi” being derived from “Fort Bilocci” in French, another name for “Fort Maurepas”.

 

The Ocean Springs, a neighboring city on the Mississippian Gulf Coast, has a  Wikipedia page as well.  This site declares that “seafood has been celebrated” as its heritage, but, like the Biloxi page, makes no mention of Indians.

 

Biloxi’s city homepage fails to mention the importance of the Biloxi tribe to its existence.  Instead, it notes the 8 flags that have flown there: France, England, Spain, Republic of West Florida, Confederate States of America, and the United States of America, as well as the old Magnolia State flag, and the current Mississippi state flag.  The site says Biloxi was inhabited by Native Americans as early as 8000 BCE up to the 1700s.  It also states that the first French and French-Canadians to arrive in 1699 became “friends with the Biloxi Indians”, without any documentation.  It also says the Indians there spoke “the Sioux language” and that they “most likely migrated form the northeast”.  Furthermore it states that there is “some indication” that the Indians arrived shortly before the French.

 

Ocean Springs also has some history on its website.   It explains that Old Biloxi, was the past name for Ocean Springs.  New Biloxi (Biloxi) became “essentially abandoned after the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans in 1722.”  “The historical record of Ocean Springs during the next 100 years is rather sparse…It is probable that some French and French-Canadians remained in the area after Old Biloxi was abandoned in 1720.  New Biloxi met the same fate circa 1728.”

 

In other words, there is no continued relation with indigenous peoples in the area.

 

In 1763, land east of the Mississippi River was ceded to England. The Treaty of Paris, signed in 1783, gave British West Florida to Spain.  Spain held this land until 1810, when the Republic of West Florida was declared.  In 1811, this became the United States.  Mississippi entered the Union in 1817, bringing many Americans into its land.  Immigrants flooded in to work as seamen and laborers.  In 1853, Ocean Springs Hotel was founded, and in 1854, Old Biloxi was changed to “Ocean Springs” as it was considered a more appropriate title for the tourist and seaside city, abandoned of its Native heritage.  No more is mentioned of indigenous peoples.

 

On the Biloxi Historical Society website, absolutely nothing speaks of honor for the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe or the Biloxi Indian historical inhabitants.   The only mention of any “Indians” exists under the Athletes section and the Time Line.

 

Under the Time Line section for Biloxi, documented as 1682-present, the historian writes “I have subjectively gleaned salient dates and facts relating to our local chronology”…  

 

The historical account does not mention the tribe.  In fact, it indicates that continuous occupation did not exist until long after indigenous peoples had left the area.

 

Fast-forward to the 20th century: the newspaper reports several instances of Bilxoi Indians – but none of these pertain to the tribe.  Beginning on December 7, 1926, we learn that the “Indians”, under Coach Tranny, “were outweighed 24-pounds per man” against the Sunflower County Agricultural High School from Mooreland.  This continues until present use.

 

In fact, we learn this from a publication by the Daily Herald:

 

“In the fall of 1926, Biloxi High School changed its moniker from the ‘Yellow Jackets’ to the ‘Redskins’.  The new school colors became maroon and white, replacing the former black and gold.  Coach Tranny L. Gaddy (1894-1975) was responsible for the change.”

 

In 1927, we already see the name “Indians” being implemented.  Throughout the spring semester, the term “Biloxi Indians” is referenced several times.  Meanwhile, both amateur and professional baseball teams reflect the seafood culture and heritage of the city, going by the mascots of Sea Gulls and Pelicans through at least the late 1920s and also the 1930s.

 

On March 30, 1927 – going even closer to the change to “Redskins” – the Daily Herald writes, “Biloxi INJUNS Add Big Six Crown to Titles”.  Yes, not Redskins.  Not Indians.  But Injuns.  This theme continues into next year.  October 10, 1927, “Biloxi Indians Run Wild over Moss Pointers; 44-0”.  April 9, 1928, “High Schoolers Play Hard But Lose to Finny Tribe.”

 

Under the Public Schools section, we learn that the Biloxi school system is actually rather impressive in its outreach and educating students, such as in the area of health and in its success in athletes and college graduates.  However, the history, like most of the south, is steeped in racial segregation.  Clearly, it does not have a good recent history in educating its students on human equality.  Its first Colored School opened in 1893. “Wade-Ins” on the segregated beaches of Biloxi occurred in the late 1950s.  In 1964, a litigation, “Gilbert R. Mason v. the Biloxi Municipal School District”, made some changes.  It was stated that “a plan was submitted to Federal authorities to desegregate the 1st grade in Biloxi Public schools for the 1964-1965 school years.  15 Biloxi schools were affected.”

 

On November 7th, 1975, the Daily Herald reported a demonstration by 40 black students against the school’s grooming policy outlawing cornrows.  This would, in theory, be the senior year of the first integrated students. 

 

The Class of 1961 was the last one to be in the “Old School” – a school that neither saw Air Conditioning, nor integration at any point in its existence.

 

In the meantime, from the Tunica-Biloxi’s recommendation for Federally Recognized Tribal status, we can learn a lot about the most comprehensive history in existence of the Biloxi people and their current existence.

 

In this letter, we learn that four tribes have fused into one, having extensive documented contact with French and Spanish authorities through the 1700s.  A Tunica community has maintained at the Marksville site since the Tunicas first migrated into the area in the 1770s.  The Ofoand Biloxi came into the area around the same time.  The Avoyel were located in this area at the time of the earliest non-Indian contact.  Thus all were located in the area before the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.  

 

In 1763, the Biloxi are recorded as living across from the Tunica on the Mississippi River.  In 1784, the last Biloxi to live near the mouth of the Red River on the Mississippi across from the Tunica are recorded as living with the Pascagoula.

 

In April 1778, the TunicasOfos, and Biloxis all traded their English medals for Spanish replacements as a token of their allegiance.  Essentially, they moved west to evade British rule.

 

The Tunicas tried halting non-Indian encroachment on tribal land in 1826 and again in the 1840s through several State Court legal efforts and hearings.

 

At about 1810, the Tunica Village at Marksville had technically been fused with other tribes already.  Some remnant Biloxi communities had remained separate.  Even in the 1930s and 1940s, a portion had migrated into Texas.  By 1797, Biloxis were living in villages near Marksville, Louisiana.  By the 1840s, they’d lost any communally held land.

 

In 1826, the US government referred to the Tunicas as “Indians” and “savages” in their documented land disputes.

 

On October 9, 1924, the Biloxis recognized Eli Barbry, then a Tunica sub-chief, as leader.  Authorization was given to unite the Biloxi with the Tunica.  This tribal merger therefore occurred before Biloxi, Mississipi’s alleged honoring of the Biloxi Indians.  In 1936, chieftainship was established.  In the 1930s, twice the tribe sought federal recognition – but were considered too small.  The tribe finally established its recognition in the 1970s, and the Biloxi school system, in all of its modern claims to “honoring” the tribe, had no play in assisting during this process.

 

From my research, I see no evidence in the history of the tribe, the city, the school, or anything of the area that suggests the school is honoring the Biloxi people is at all true.  From what I see, this mascot and its names originated in an incredibly racist era where indigenous peoples were not respected as human beings.  Yet the same people who have been cyber-bullying Natives continue to insist they are honoring us, that they are continuing their tradition after having been given permission by the Biloxi to use these symbols and the Biloxi headdre.  Furthermore, testimonies from tribal members confirm our understanding of the history and deny any honor given by Biloxi or permission granted to use stolen cultural symbols.

Biloxi, have YOU done your research?

JEAN-LUC PIERITE: Educate yourself about the people of Tunica-Biloxi.

A recent acquaintance, with whom I came in contact while seeking enrolled Biloxi Indians disapproving of the Biloxi mascot, worked with Sun Herald to publish a piece about his disapproval of the mascot, etc.

Read the piece here: http://www.sunherald.com/2015/04/25/6193343/jean-luc-pierite-educate-yourself.html

Thought I would pass it along.

a response to a Biloxi resident.

Today is a hectic day for me, but I’m taking a couple hours out of my afternoon to address some pressing issues.  I feel it’s my duty to reply in a timely matter when certain wrongs have been done to people I care about.  I would like to think my writing is a way to expose truth that might not otherwise be exposed, and to present truth in a written, passive form that might not otherwise be heard in a heated moment of hostility.  Today, I am also sitting outside at a Panera, wondering why no one but I, and the smoker on his smoking breaks, choose to take advantage of a nice day in the city.  Folks are too comfortable with their climate control around here…but I digress.


I am writing this piece to expose the kinds of hateful messages Deloria Lane Many Grey Horses-Violich must deal with as she raises her chid and raises awareness to the mascot issue which affects all children.  I will first type out this message for you to read, then I will take the time to reply to each piece.  Keep in mind that this began an open dialogue between Deloria, her cousin Jacqueline Keeler, her father Chief Phil Lane Jr., and several other Natives – myself included.  I doubt any tidbit I will say today will provide new information to that dialogue; however, the Biloxi resident was persistent in ignoring nearly every point we made.  I thought perhaps it didn’t sink in enough; so I’m going to spend too much of my already-busy day spelling it out further for her sake, and perhaps for the sake of others:

“If the Native American headdress is so sacred then why can you purchase them at reservations located throughout the country as well as online?  Why would Native Americans sell something that is so sacred to them as a souvenir to tourists?
[Several links included to Red Path, Red Eagle, Crazy Crow]

“When European settlers first arrived in the geographical area now known as Biloxi, MS in 1699 it was inhabited by the Biloxi Tribe.  Our city, rivers, streets, etc. were named based on the history and existence of the Biloxi Indians who resided here when Europeans first arrived.
“When a school, sports team, company, etc. chooses a mascot they seek out a symbol that reflects their beliefs and conveys a message about their organization, product, people, etc.  Biloxi High School chose the Biloxi Indian based on the history of the Biloxi Indian Tribe who resided here but also because it represents strength, honor, spirit, bravery and character.  I fail to see how this could be viewed as an insult.  I do not know of any organization who has chosen a mascot for negative qualities…do you?
“In my opinion Deloria Many Grey Horses is not speaking ton behalf of Native Americans but looking for a way to promote her own opinions and interest.  Biloxi High School is not mocking the Native Americans, they are honoring them.  They obviously do not view Native Americans as a negative symbol or they would not have chosen them as their mascot.  If she finds it so offensive then maybe she is the one holding on to negative stereotypes…why else would she view our mascot as a symbol anything else?
“The Tunica-Biloxi Indian tribe from which we chose our mascot does not have a problem with it.  They do not find it offensive and actually presented Biloxi High School with a headdress.  If Deloria Many Grey Horses wants to make a difference then maybe she should first start with inner change and ask herself why she finds our mascot so offensive or views it as a negative symbol.  She should also ask Native Americans why they are selling headdresses to Non-Native Americans…maybe then can enlighten her on their beliefs and motives.
“I would also like to ask Deloria Many Grey Horses if she is 100% Native American?  Has she researched her own lineage?  How can she be sure by looking at another human being that they are not of Native American descent?  She may be very surprised to discover that not all people of Native American descent have dark hair, skin or eyes.
“In addition, some of the information in your article is not accurate.  Graduating from Berkeley I would think your research skills would be better.”

Yup.  A human being actually said those things.  But if you are amongst the few who aren’t appalled by this message, I will now break it…all…down….((sigh))

1. If the Native American headdress is so sacred then why can you purchase them at reservations located throughout the country as well as online?  Why would Native Americans sell something that is so sacred to them as a souvenir to tourists?
[Several links included to Red Path, Red Eagle, Crazy Crow]

First of all, headdresses cannot be sold to non-Native Americans.  They cannot even be sold to Native Americans if they not enrolled, or if they are enrolled in State-Recognized Tribes.  They have to be enrolled in Federally-Recognized tribes.  That is because headdresses, real ones, are made of Eagle Feathers.  Well, I shouldn’t generalized.  The Northern Plains headdresses we are talking about are exactly as I just described.  Other styles, such as my own peoples’, would probably not be called “headdresses” to the unfamiliarized.  That is because the Northern Plains headdress has become a stereotype to Native peoples through Wild West movies during the 1900s.  And, indeed, there was a period when many tribes were adopting from one another – especially as they were forced onto the same Reserves or, in the case of the Biloxi, united with other tribes for numbers and their own survival.  However, we are fortunate enough to live in a time where things have been changing.  We have been given back many rights that were taken from us, including Civil Rights and religious freedom (since  as recent as my parents’ teenage years).  So our younger generations are reviving our traditions, and we are shedding light and finding our voices to dissolve the remaining issues in our society that stereotype us and inhibit our growth.

However, because most people do not realize (on account of the stereotypes) the vast cultural differences of “Indians” (from the northern coast of Canada to the southern tip of Chile), they are silly enough to purchase these fake items.  These symbol are sacred, the headdress is sacred, but these replicas are merely sold out of desperation. Our Native artists are not protected by the Indian Arts and Craft Law that inhibits items to be sold as “authentic” if they were not in fact indigenous-made.  That is a new law.  It is exactly as old as I am, started in 1990.  This gives Natives an edge to make profit off of their own skills.  Sadly, due to the real-life struggles still faced on Reservations and in urban Indian communities, many artists see more profit and opportunity in appropriating their own culture.  These select few are trying to survive in a world that wants them dead and gone.  Their acts do not speak for all of the people.  Just keep that in mind, and please refrain from purchasing non-Native-made dreamcatchers, moccasins, or anything else.  And please do not purchase fake headdresses.  There are real indigenous children who cannot inherit eagle feathers on account of the Eagle Feather and enrollment laws in place by their tribe(s), so you shouldn’t expect to have any either.  Using the fake headdresses at Biloxi is no different, especially as you’ve demonstrated there is no education in place to teach the children what they’re wearing.  If there was, they’d realize how wrong it is and then it would cease to continue.

2. When European settlers first arrived in the geographical area now known as Biloxi, MS in 1699 it was inhabited by the Biloxi Tribe.  Our city, rivers, streets, etc. were named based on the history and existence of the Biloxi Indians who resided here when Europeans first arrived.

First of all, it was not inhabited by the Biloxi Tribe.  It was inhabited by the Tanêks who were later referred to as the Biloxi.  Much like the Navajo call themselves the Dine’ in their own language.

In terms of named places, I look at Google Maps and I see “Big Lake”, “Big Ridge”,… I’m guessing you guys figured out how to name those without the help of any tribe.  I also see countless streets named with European surnames.  Well, you don’t mean Irish Hill Drive.  Or Switzer or Carter or Orleans or Pass or Bay or Popps Ferry or Washington or Commerce or Strawberry or Georgia or Jim Byrd or Hudson Krohn or 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th,… Biloxi River?  Well the town is called Biloxi, too.  But no one even knows where that name came from.  It certainly was not a Tanêks word.  Oh!  Look, there’s even a Little Big Lake.  Naw, I doubt that was a Tanêks idea, either.  Deer Island?  Nope.  Sorry, I must be missing something.

So back to the origin of Biloxi… Fort Bilocci is where we get the name Biloxi.  Some seem to think it is a Choctaw word.  I don’t know.  And quite frankly, I don’t really care.  Even the historical society of Biloxi seems to have no history to support its naming.  And the Biloxi people were forced to leave in order to survive, all of them recorded as having left by no later than the 1770s.  Before the Revolutionary War in the Colonies.  Before the Louisiana Purchase.  Before Mississippi was in the Union.  The Tanêks then integrated with a number of other tribes and took the English name Tunica-Biloxi Indians.  Sorry, just none of this adds up.

3. When a school, sports team, company, etc. chooses a mascot they seek out a symbol that reflects their beliefs and conveys a message about their organization, product, people, etc.

Right, they do.  Because there is symbolism behind what they choose.  However, when a human being is chosen as a mascot – specifically an entire race of people who identify instead by their own nations – is used by non-Natives to sell their product or promote their image, this is not out of honor.  Do you really think these mascots, chosen in times when Natives weren’t even allowed to be American citizens, were really honoring anything?  No, they were chosen because Natives were considered non-human.  Boarding schools, some of which closed within my lifetime, were set in place by the government to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” – stripping them of all their clothes, language, religion, anything that made them “Indian”.  Children taken from home and assimilated.  The government did this.  In its very motto, the program clearly parallels a dead Indian to a saved man.  Just in case you still didn’t get it, Indian =/= Man.  Indian=Animal.  Indian=Savage.  Indian=Your Mascot, based on these beliefs.  These mascots were chosen because they were savage, uncontrollable animals, noted for their resilience to assimilation.  WE are proud of our resilience to assimilation, but THEY were not.  THEY tried to beat it out of our ancestors.  To THEM, we were worthless farm animals to be tamed and broken.  No different than the way they treated our black cousins.  THAT is why this HAS TO STOP.

4. Biloxi High School chose the Biloxi Indian based on the history of the Biloxi Indian Tribe who resided here but also because it represents strength, honor, spirit, bravery and character.

There is no evidence of why they chose this.  If you think that name represents those things, then you believe in the Indian stereotype.  The Tanêks simply left.  They wanted nothing to do with the British.  I am not speaking ill of them when I say their leaving in no way earns them the right to be stereotyped as the resilient “savage”.  They were resilient, absolutely, but not in a way you comprehend.  You don’t recognize their struggle for federal recognition because, as you demonstrated in your dialogue with us, you know nothing about Indian Affairs, Tribal Law, or our histories.  You just pretend like you do, but you’re reiterating the same stereotyping lies that we have had to shoot down time and time again.  When will it end??

Furthermore, your school was the Yellow Jackets in the 1920s.  Then they – for whatever reason – decided to be the “R*dsk*ns”.  OH, hell no.  They went from that racial slur – with the same imagery and symbols – to the “Indians”.  The town name was Biloxi.  They were then of course the “Biloxi Indians”.  No school that chooses a racial slur turns into the Indians in that era of history for anything close to honor.  Do some research!!  How can I know more than you when I don’t even live there??

5.  I fail to see how this could be viewed as an insult.  I do not know of any organization who has chosen a mascot for negative qualities…do you?

Clearly you fail to see it.  I can’t say I know of anyone who chose a mascot for “negative qualities” in the sense that you mean, but I know plenty of anyones who have chosen them for the wrong reasons.  Your school included.

6. In my opinion Deloria Many Grey Horses is not speaking ton behalf of Native Americans but looking for a way to promote her own opinions and interest.

This daughter of a Chief and mother of an indigenous child is sacrificing her own reputation on behalf of everyone’s child, yours included.  Her views absolutely represent The People.  Not just the indigenous peoples.  She is protected all of our children from being taught prejudices, from being put in the same position you are now in.  If this had been resolved when you were a child, you would not have been taught this prejudice as being “normal”.  Deloria stands up for the people who cannot stand up for themselves, or who risk being assaulted, killed, racially discriminated, raped, or a number of other things that are so prevalent in our communities, especially when we choose to voice an unpopular opinion and defend our rights to our own humanity.  She is working to eliminate these damaging stereotypes and to give a better life for people. All things are related, they all affect each other.  By promoting positive imagery, we can promote safer environments, more welcoming homes for our indigenous cousins, more prosperous communities – and then maybe some day the economies in these communities will be prosperous enough that folks, like those selling the fake headdresses, will no longer need to appropriate their own cultures to make a living.  They will instead be respected for their craftsmanship and their identities.  Do not speak ill of my indigenous family.

7. Biloxi High School is not mocking the Native Americans, they are honoring them.  They obviously do not view Native Americans as a negative symbol or they would not have chosen them as their mascot.

In your opinion, this mascot is not a mockery.  That says absolutely nothing about why it was chosen, and it most certainly was chosen in a racist era.  It continues to be a racist era.  We have made so much progress, but clearly not in every department.  Honor also requires those being honored to feel honored.  By stealing symbols from other cultures, and not listening to living citizens of those cultures when they tell you they’re not honored and please stop, that is not honoring.  Not even close.  That is insolence.  They obviously do not understand the wrongness in their continued use of a stereotype and sacred symbols, or else they would have voluntarily made the change already.  You are not providing them with an educational environment to end teaching that prejudice because you are perpetuating it.  Because you believe in the prejudices and the stereotypes yourself.  That is why talking to you is like talking to a brick wall.

8. If she finds it so offensive then maybe she is the one holding on to negative stereotypes…why else would she view our mascot as a symbol anything else?

There is no “holding on” to a negative stereotype.  There is only living through the terrible impacts of these negative stereotypes being perpetuated in the world around us, every day, and being taught to the generations who will grow up and teach them yet again to their youth.  Because no one is telling them it’s wrong.  That is why Deloria, and every other person in these #NotYourMascot movement…and the dozens and counting of organizations opposed to Native mascots…are standing up and saying it’s been way. too. long.  As for why she views the mascot in the way she does,………I’m sorry, but are you capable of reading?  Of Google?  Do you know who Amanda Blackhorse is?  Do you realize this isn’t just about Biloxi?  It’s about every single Native stereotype/mascot EVERYWHERE.

9. The Tunica-Biloxi Indian tribe from which we chose our mascot does not have a problem with it.  They do not find it offensive and actually presented Biloxi High School with a headdress.

First of all, no one has established that’s why you chose the mascot.  You were the Biloxi R*dsk*ns before you were the Biloxi Indians.  In the same time when n*gger was totally cool to say, too.  Nice.

Second of all, the tribe has not said they’re okay with it.  They have not yet said anything in the matter.  Do not speak for a Nation.  What audacity.  Ironically, this same woman later quotes a letter written by a tribal member.  Yes, she quotes the whole letter and says LISTEN TO WHAT THIS MAN IS SAYING.  Oh, but we have!  Holy cow, woman!  His letter was written to the local media, asking for this nonsense to END, for his people to stop being made into a MASCOT.  He was saying STOP.  An enrolled member of the Tunica-Biloxi tribe!  Has said stop!  Has pointed out that politics get in the way of becoming directly involved in such matter.  Has stated that just because they have been silent does not mean they have consented!  Much like a lack of “stop” does not constitute rape!  So stop raping his culture!  Stop desecrating the Northern Plains sacred symbols, as members of those tribes have repeatedly begged of you!

10. If Deloria Many Grey Horses wants to make a difference then maybe she should first start with inner change and ask herself why she finds our mascot so offensive or views it as a negative symbol.  She should also ask Native Americans why they are selling headdresses to Non-Native Americans…maybe then can enlighten her on their beliefs and motives.

Deloria is making a difference.  You wouldn’t be interested in recognizing it though, because you are afraid of her success.  Because you know Biloxi is next, and you have lost your senses over it.  As have many alumni (see my last post).  That is all I have to add to this comment as I’ve explained this all already.

11.  I would also like to ask Deloria Many Grey Horses if she is 100% Native American?  Has she researched her own lineage?  How can she be sure by looking at another human being that they are not of Native American descent?  She may be very surprised to discover that not all people of Native American descent have dark hair, skin or eyes.

It is not your business the heritage of a person.  You said your husband is Irish, but what percentage?  What, do we weight the value of our opinions based on blood now? As I’ve asked before, are we dogs?  Do you only want purebreds?

You really think this woman needs to research her lineage?  Her father, a chief, wears a 120-year-old headdress and attends indigenous campaigns all across the world.  He, Deloria, Jackie… they have their own Wikipedia pages.  Yeah, I know Wikipedia isn’t some symbol of one’s worth…but I would guess that, based on your lack of research in other areas, Wikipedia might be something your more capable of using than Google.  Just saying.

I can’t even take this part seriously.  “She may be very surprised…”  Oh, yes because she has never seen another Native person in her life.  Woman, you may be surprised that not all Natives look like Chief Wahoo, or like your silly school mascot and symbols.  YOU are the one promoting stereotypes and here you are, defending Native DIVERSITY.  I’m just going to say…you’re a hypocrite…and there’s no need to discuss this part further.  (P.S. WHAT AUDACITY.)

12. In addition, some of the information in your article is not accurate.  Graduating from Berkeley I would think your research skills would be better.

I have not seen anything of Deloria’s that is inaccurate.  However, I have seen nothing of yours that is.  You are clearly incapable of research, so you are not one to talk.  Furthermore, you seem to not address that many Tunica-Biloxi members have stated on social media that the Northern Plains headdress replicated by the school is not in fact one of their symbols.  It is a symbol of the people you are attacking in this conversation.  Based on a conversation with an enrolled member, I have come to understand that there is only one headdress, that it was worn by his great-grandfather and grandfather, and there is a story behind how it was obtained.  In other words, it is not representative of Biloxi culture in any way.  But I won’t have the audacity to make those claims on my own, because I am Shawnee.

Oh, wait, you figured out she went to Berkeley.  However did you manage to research that?  I guess you did get one thing right!  Whoo!

And to leave you with one more thing…. In the woman’s defense, she did claim this was a “copied and pasted” quote from someone on Facebook who was banned from a group, and that it was not her own.  Either way, she thought it was important enough to keep it in the conversation:

 

I’ll let you decide for yourself what kind of people we are dealing with, and whether they understand the implications of their “honor” for the “Biloxi Indians” or not.

Not “Indian Enough”

Biloxi High School Alumni Perpetuate Ignorance, Cyberbully Natives, and Dictate Who is “Indian Enough” to Have an Opinion in Cultural Appropriation Debate.

[To read more about Native/Ally response to the cyberattacks, read my last post about #IndigenizeZuckerberg – or visit my featured article on the Good Men Project: Why Are Natives Changing Their Names to Zuckerberg on Facebook?.]

Deloria

Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich whose Facebook account was repeatedly suspended due to her Indigenous surname. Photo: Courtesy of Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich

As a Native person in today’s society, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle to “walk two worlds”, to carry on your traditions while living up to the expectations of your Elders.  These unique, cultural challenges might internalize a fear that you’re not “Indian enough”, not real enough.  With our cultures repeatedly misrepresented, misunderstood, and aggressively appropriated all around us, this fear is only compounded.  We aren’t stereotypes, so how can we expect to live up to them?  It seems that the modern trend is to allow non-indigenous America (and Canada) define who they think are “Indian enough” to be members of our sovereign nations.  This stereotyping also leads to a misunderstanding of cultures, and this misunderstanding leads to cultural appropriation.  Furthermore, the American(/Canadian) government dictates which nations even “deserve” sovereignty.  Not only is this unethical, but it’s unconstitutional.  Yet, here we are today, continuing to stand up to the misrepresentation of our peoples, only to be stereotyped as “alcoholics” while we stand sober, pelted with stadium-priced beer cans from drunken sports fans.  We voice our opinion, try to shed light on the truth of how we feel, only to be told to “go back to the Reservation”, back to our voiceless place that keeps the “Indian problem” from inconveniencing American (and Canadian) lives.

The Biloxi High School cultural appropriation is no different.  In fact, it’s a glowing example of (North) American racism, hostility, and misunderstanding.

Although the Biloxi High School has long been listed on the American Indian Sports Team Mascots website as racist, the recent display of its uniform blasphemy at D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival has opened the floodgates of opposition.  Natives and their allies have stood up against racist mascots and symbolism for decades, but this new age of social media has helped to finally level the playing field.  Voices that were once drowned out are finally being heard, especially in Washington where a racial slur is still being casually thrown around in the name of sports.  Seeing this display of mockery – an entire marching band in sacred war bonnets – was something no person with any cultural sensitivity or a sense of respect could ignore.

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Biloxi uniform, photo from Des Grange’s Flickr page (Google image search).

Deloria Lane Many Grey Horses-Violich is one of these people.  Peacefully, she generated a Change.org petition calling for Biloxi Superintendent Arthur McMillan to emancipate indigenous peoples from the cultural appropriation of our Tunica-Biloxi cousins.  She eloquently defends the teenagers being subjected to the perpetuation of cultural appropriation, stating, “If you want to play the trumpet and represent your school, you have to wear an item that is sacred to many Native cultures.”  And she’s absolutely right – you see, prejudice is taught, not genetic.

Petition signers’ comments flood in:

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Yet, instead of the Biloxi High School alumni addressing the hurt and validity in the voices of “real Indians” and their sympathizers, they chose to speak on behalf of the present Biloxi student population and target Native peoples.  These products of Biloxi education responded to Deloria’s honest efforts with a petition called “Save the Biloxi High School Mascot & Tradition” – also on change.org, started by Kristen “Krissi” West.

“Please Mr. McMillan, keep our Indian tradition alive!” Krissi writes in her petition.

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Remember that statement for its hypocrisy; she and her fellow alumni beautifully dismantle their arguments as the day progresses.

On April 19th, Krissi announced “We will not allow outsiders to crush our traditions.  We have currently surpassed the other petition that is trying to infringe on our culture, history and traditions…”  Numerous rebuttals were posted, asking for this insanity to stop.  None were heard.  Instead, the alumni’s arrogance that they would “win” took ahold of all their humanity.  A Lafayette HS Class of 1967 replied to these rebuttals:

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So whose tradition is being honored again?  Absolutely not that of the Tunica-Biloxi.  Absolutely not that of the indigenous peoples.

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This is just the beginning.  The meaning behind our traditions have been under-rug-swept by genocide, and we #IdleNoMore.

Not long after the petition crossfire began, the Biloxi HS Alumni page was finding many of its comments and postings deleted by Facebook.  When page’s administrators, who repeatedly admitted their incompetence at using Facebook, found that the page had suddenly become an “open” group, all fingers were immediately pointed to Deloria.  She was accused of “creating the issue” around mascots.

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The assault on Deloria’s account – including her temporary ban from Facebook – has added fuel to the already-growing fire of discrimination against Native names on accounts.  (Read: Facebook Protest)

[UPDATE: On April 22nd, a BHS alumnus wrote on the Alumni page regarding why their page had suddenly become Open, or public, before they made another underground page.  “As for supposedly someone hacking this group and changing it from closed to public,” he writes, “on Facebook it is IMPOSSIBLE to lower this setting after you have 250 members.  Even if an Administrator wanted to make this change it can’t be done.  Only an Administrator can only make it MORE restrictive and never less.”  In other words, the accusations were clearly false against Deloria.]

Later in the morning, Lauren McWilliams demonstrates the lack of proper Native American education at Biloxi and adds the following misinformation:

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Not only was an enrolled tribal member, daughter of Chief Phil Lane, Jr., being called “not Indian enough”, but suddenly alumni’s claims to blood quanta of “part Choctaw”, “part Cherokee”, and “part Seminole” were being used to justify their actions.  More than once, Deloria was required to provide government-issued identification to confirm her indigenous surname “Many Grey Horses” was not in fact “fake”.  F.A.I.R. Media (For Accurate Indigenous Representation) was also targeted, accused of promoting racism by denouncing “red face” and “black face”.

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Note the irony of the commentary.  Others remain apparently completely unaware of the last several decades of mascot activism.

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In addition to targeting F.A.I.R. for being “racist”, Biloxi alumna Tara Harrell Duett called for a cyberattack on another woman in the Native community who had expressed her disapproval of the Biloxi alumni’s group movements.

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After some debate, and a lot of deletion by Facebook, the Biloxi movement went underground.  They created a private group littered with hashtags “#BHSFORLIFE” and “#GOBIGRED”.

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Members had to prove that they were “Biloxi Indians”.  Every single Biloxi graduate who made comments in favor of the anti-mascot argument was immediately deleted from the group, usually after efforts to prove they didn’t graduate from BHS and therefore were not “alumni” and “BHS Indian enough”.  This means the movement is in the hands of ex-students, not even the children who are being affected by the mascot and made to wear sacred symbols without adequate education regarding them.  Furthermore, one member admitted he didn’t attend all of his high school years at BHS, but because he graduated from BHS, that made him an “Indian” and capable of kicking out others who didn’t spend their Senior year at BHS.

Once under security of their group’s privacy, Biloxi alumni Tom Thurber began generating T-shirt and suggestions follow, as if adding insult to the injury of the Native #NotYourMascot campaign.

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The alumni decide to sell the t-shirts to the students to raise money for their “cause”.

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Thurber concurs, and Lateacha Tisha-Rose Reversè finds humor in the proposal.

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Krissi West later suggests using booster.com and making a Native American Heritage Month celebration out of the “BHS tradition”.

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Remember West’s defense of their mascot that non-Biloxians don’t know the history and rich culture associated with her school?  For the entire afternoon of April 20th, the private group went back and forth, trying to decide when and why they actually became the “Biloxi Indians” and adopted headdresses into their school band uniforms.  Therefore, their entire reasoning behind the petition is a blatant and misleading lie.

“From what I remember, IF I remember BHS history correctly, the school board back BEFORE Biloxi High School officially changed their mascot to the Indian, actually approached very important members of the Biloxi Indian tribe to officially as if they (the Biloxi Public School District) could use the Biloxi Indian as their mascot and also to use the headdress and the Indian tunic as uniform items,” writes Jerico Gotte, BHS Class of 2010.

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Yes, you have a lot more research to do than you think.

“If it turns out that they are in fact offended by the uniform,” McWilliams writes, “we will see if we can compromise as far as uniforms are concerned.”  Not only does McWilliams confirm that there is no known consent by the Tunica-Biloxi people to use them as a mascot, but she states they will compromise  – not resolve – on the issue of their offense.

But next the alumni begin arguing that the Biloxi people themselves are not “Indian enough”.  “Their ancestry cannot be 100% confirmed,” McWilliams states, claiming that many think “the tribe, and factual descendants are extinct.”  Ignoring the tribe’s status of federal recognition, the group focuses instead on how “watered down” the tribe members are, and question if they’re even Biloxi at all.  Lateacha states, “The Biloxi blood line is dead and only traces reside in those at Tunica-Biloxi.  In fact you can find old Biloxi French families with as much Biloxi in them.  I’d still love to hear from Tunica-Biloxi, but let’s be honest there is no real ‘Voice of the Tribe’ left.”

You want “purebloods”?  What are we, dogs?

Meanwhile, BHS “Indians” continue to silence Native voices.  Other members share photos and reminisce on their days as playing “Indians.”

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See how Biloxi “celebrates” the Indian stereotype?  Will students one day say “I remember when we appropriated Native cultures by wearing headdresses and were called the “Indians”, but I’m glad we no longer do it!”

West continues to defend the use of the Biloxi’s mascot for its symbolism.  Megan Wilson agrees, stating that “The Indian shows bravery, honor, and strength… Mascots are symbols of respect and people need to get a life…!”

And what?  Go back to the Reservation where we “belong”?  So you don’t have to listen to our outrage in being labeled as hostile, vicious, inhuman beings?

These Biloxi Alumni demonstrate they honor nothing but stereotypes, cultural appropriation, themselves, and the “Indian” ideal that genuine Natives are fighting to remove.  They have no cultural sensitivity and refuse to obtain a proper education in the matter.  Furthermore, while indigenous peoples are busy fighting for every aspect of their equality, they are being accused of having “more important things to do”.  Apparently adults reminiscing over high school and working overtime to keep racism in the education system is a more important thing to do.  These “BHS Indians” pass judgment on “real Indians”, calling them “racists” and “whiners” for standing up for their sovereignties and rights as human beings.  As a result, more civilized residents of Biloxi have joined the anti-mascot side in sympathy of the Natives, saying they are disgusted with their ex-classmates’ words and their childish actions.  In fact, many have signed our petition.

It is absolutely imperative for the citizens of this country to wake up and realize the unnecessary harm being done by the continued use of racist mascots.  The documented psychological damage on both Native and non-Native children should be proof enough of the necessity to change.  Humans are not predisposed to prejudice; instead, we are teaching our non-indigenous children cultural insensitivity and our indigenous children low self-worth.  We are perpetuating the lies of what constitutes being “Indian enough” and what doesn’t.  Stop this injustice, Biloxi, like you finally stopped racially segregating your students in 1970.  It’s time we moved beyond delusions of racial inequality.

If you are as frustrated by the exposed truth of the Biloxi resistance as I am, and see the need to discontinue the perpetuation of these stereotypes and the appropriation of cultures, please join us by spreading the word and signing our petition here.  Thanks.

facebook protest!

MEDIA ALERT: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LFYGJdMw2uOPiEBrQRcgu8JUprF4xlLKx5sCsPhVVI4/mobilebasic?pli=1

I hope to bring to you soon:

  1. A recap on the Cleveland baseball protest, once I’m able to consolidate my photos.
  2. A copy of an article I wrote regarding the Biloxi mascot issue and the resulting attack on Deloria Many Grey Horses.

But, as time is ticking, I am going to skip those two for now to go straight to an event that will be trending all across social media today:

#NotYourZuckerberg

#IndigenizeZuckerberg

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Today, you will see many of these as Facebook profile pictures.

My cover photo is this:

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Today these hashtags are being used on all forms of social media to draw attention to a lapse in Facebook’s name policy.  This policy, as it currently stands, has no protection for people with indigenous names – or really any name that isn’t “typical”, “normal”, or as many are arguing, “European”.  On the surface, this may seem like a trivial issue.  But all issues which may seem trivial on the surface tend to have roots in a much deeper issue.

Why are indigenous names being discriminated against?

Sure, names like “Many Grey Horses” might look suspicious to a computer…but don’t all names have similar translations in English?  My surname is of European origin, but in English my surname is “Of The Valley”.  Mario Lemieux, ironically, has the surname which, in English, means “The Best”.  Shumacher?  “Shoe Maker”.  I’m sure may indigenous names can be written in their indigenous languages as well.  But that’s beside the point…  The reality is, Facebook’s name tool often suggests that a name is fake.  I’ve had that issue trying to add my name in an indigenous language.  And we aren’t alone: our indigenous counterparts in the British Isles have faced similar discrimination which hit the press this year on the Scotsman.  (A man battled Facebook to allow him to use his Gaelic name.)

But what if your name is on Facebook and later you’re told it’s fake?  This happened to Deloria Many Grey Horses as part of a cyberattack.  Deloria was discovered by the Bilox Alumni on Facebook as having been the woman who started the petition against their school’s desecration of the sacred war bonnet and use of the “Biloxi Indian” mascot.  She was targeted by Krissi West (BHS 2005), who proudly posted on the Alumni page that she had “reported her for hate speech”.  Deloria was also reported more than once for having a fake name.  After providing all of the proper credentials, she was brought back to Facebook only to be (reported again and) banned permanently.  Fortunately, we were able to get her back and going strong in a matter of hours, but this new tactic of users to silence Natives by using Facebook’s current policy as a tool really added fuel to the already-growing fire of why many of us are being targeted.

So why are indigenous names being targeted?

On the surface, sometimes because of a computer’s algorithm that flags it.  But, more and more often, this is happening because users are trying to shut up Natives who use social media to be heard.  Yes, social media is changing the face of how we share information, providing a platform for many once-silenced voices in corners like the Reservation or hidden in urban settings to be able to voice their opinions.  And those opinions spread like wildfire.  But Facebook’s policy is currently allowing trolls, essentially, to remove the Native voice from social media.

Even after we follow the policy and provide all the information needed.

This is why we are using the hashtag #IndigenizeZuckerberg.  We need him and his coworkers at Facebook to address the importance social media platforms, like Facebook, have in Indian Country.  We need him to recognize that the current policy needs to be reviewed.  We need him to develop a better system to keep activists like Deloria, who are fighting for equality and not “trolling” anyone else, from being shut down through loopholes in the policy.

It’s not just a matter of letting people be who they truly are on social media – by their true names and sharing true information – but it’s a plea to stop silencing indigenous voices…not just in the United States…not just in Canada…but really, all around the world.

We are indigenous, and we are a part of the modern world.  We are not dead.  We are not dumb.  We have capitalized on useful tools of the colonized world, and we consider Facebook one of these tools.  Stop silencing the voices of these people.  Stop asking for their government-issued documents to prove who they are, then allowing this process to happen again and again.

If you are on Facebook, join us.  In a matter of minutes, we will be changing our last names to Zuckerberg, changing our profile pictures to one of these #IndigenizeZuckerberg images, and posting hashtags to share the information as much as possible.  Be advised that current policy may result in you being a Zuckerberg for 60 days.

Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1555205128076480/

If you are on Tumblr, WordPress, Blogspot, Instagram, Twitter, and of these other platforms, help us spread the word using the hashtag, these images, these words, and help to bring awareness so we can all have an equal experience in the social media outlets.

Other images:

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Manipulating the “like” hand:

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Niyaawe!

Thank you!