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.

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