Wisconsin’s state Assembly is to vote tomorrow on a bill that would require schools to prove – if someone complains – that their mascots or nicknames aren’t offensive. Some40 Wisconsin schools still have race-based nicknames, although others have dropped them.
Sue Pruessing, who heads the school board for Big Foot High School in Walworth, says she’s not worried.
“We sit on the very beginning of Big Foot Prairie, and the school was named in honor of Chief Big Foot,” Pruessing tells the Walworth County Times, here.
“We relate it to being no different than a school being named to honor John F. Kennedy … George Washington or (Abraham) Lincoln.”
And, she adds, “This was (Chief) Big Foot’s grounds and where his villages were. It’s always been done very reverently in honor of him.”
Big Foot, also called Maumksuck, was the last Potawatomi Indian Chief to live in this area before European settler arrived, according to the school’s Web site.
A lot of folks are having way too much fun whomping on “Avatar.” The latest is David Brooks at the New York Times, who goes beyond the old “Dances With Wolves”-in-space criticism and also invokes “A Man Called Horse” and “Pocahontas” – only in blueface, of course.
“Would it be totally annoying,” Brooks wonders here, “to point out that the whole White Messiah fable, especially as Cameron applies it, is kind of offensive?”
It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.
Well, yeah, a lot of people are going to find that annoying. And a lot of other people are going to find it annoying but will kick back and enjoy the special effects, anyway. We expect we’ll fall into that latter category, when we finally get up the gumption to brave the crowds at the multiplex.
Cleveland Indians fans with Chief Wahoo signs. (AP photo)
The Cleveland Indians, that is.
Ed Rice of Orono, Maine, wrote “Baseball’s First Indian, Louis Sockalexis” in 2003 and “Native Trailblazer, Andrew Sockalexis” in 2008 and he’s long championed a change in team nicknames and mascots – starting with the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo.
The name, he writes in this column for the Bangor (Maine) Daily News, supposedly “honors” Louis Sockalexis, who was Penobscot from Maine, who is generally considered the first Native American to have played Major League baseball, in 1897.
As he writes:
…Why do they make players of color wear a symbol they would never consider wearing if it represented a person of their own race? Why do they make any player with a conscience wear something he can’t possibly be comfortable about appearing in public wearing? My own personal “Field of Dreams” moment for the Cleveland franchise would be the arrival of a player with conscience who refuses to wear that symbol on his uniform — whether he’s a Native American player, like Jacoby Ellsbury, Joba Chamberlain or Kyle Lohse, or just a player with integrity.”
The Penobscot Tribe has, in a resolution, asked the team to stop using the Chief Wahoo caricature. That was years ago and the franchise has yet to acknowledge that resolution.
Rices urges Maine to set an example for Cleveland by abolishing offensive team nicknames and mascots within the state.
Native American storyteller and University of Maine Native American Studies program direction John Bear Mitchell once noted to me that I should not focus so much of my energy on national targets — like Sports Illustrated magazine, the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Cleveland Indians — and work to make our state more aware and more proactive on these matters. “It starts from the center of the circle, Ed, not outside it,” he explained.
In the meantime, he urges people to call the Cleveland Indians and demand that they respond to the Penobscot resolution. He supplies the number and we’re happy to reprint it: 216-420-4200.
As Rice says, don’t stop calling until the team responds!
Director James Cameron himself told the Los Angeles Times months ago that his movie, “Avatar,” is basically “Dances With Wolves” in space – “that clash of civilizations or of cultures.”
But is that a good thing?
The sci-fi blog io9 thinks not. Specifically, it asks:
Whether Avatar is racist is a matter for debate. Regardless of where you come down on that question, it’s undeniable that the film – like alien apartheid flick District 9, released earlier this year – is emphatically a fantasy about race. Specifically, it’s a fantasy about race told from the point of view of white people. Avatar and scifi films like it give us the opportunity to answer the question: What do white people fantasize about when they fantasize about racial identity?
These are movies, it concludes, about white guilt. It’s a long post, but a thought-provoking one. Check it out.