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Who WAS on first?

I've been thinking about the NCAA's recent decision to ban mascots from tournaments of any university that uses a name referring to 'nativeamericans/indians/amerindians/indiginous americans' (NIAIA). Also the NCAA will not allow the nickname of the school to be displayed on air during tournaments if the name refers to any aspect of NIAIA culture.

In the spirit of the 'let's not think, let's just act' tradition of 'zero tolerance' and '3 strikes you're out', the decision tramples nuance and is probably offensive to some of the very folks being 'protected'.

For example, the Florida State Seminoles are honoring a tribe long associated with the state of the hanging chad and orange juice. Not only does a representive of the Seminole tribe dress in full regalia for every home football game, but the nickname has the approval of the Seminole tribal council. Likewise, Atlanta's baseball team, the Braves, honors the spirit of the NIAIA with a word that can hardly be denigrated.

On the other hand, the name of Washington's pro football team (Redskins) is offensive on as many levels as the new Veridian tower. Considering that redskin is as odious as describing jews as 'Hebes' and Italians as 'wops', why anyone thinks this a worthy nickname is as mysterious as the popularity of Ashlee Simpson.

The Cleveland Indian's mascot, Chief Wahoo, deserves to be buried in the crypt that contains Little Black Sambo, blackface minstrels and George Bush's plan to rewire social security.

This leads us to another problem: What are we really supposed to call our NIAIA brothers and sisters? A name based on the confusion of Columbus thinking he had landed in India hardly seems kosher, er, fair. The term 'Native American' technically applies to anyone born in the 'Americas', while 'Amerind' seems to perpetuate the celebration of the geo-error of Columbus. Indigenous American just sounds goofy and ain't gonna catch on.

So, what are we left with? Several years ago, we visited the Taos Pueblo (pictured above) in New Mexico. Taos Pueblo is the oldest continuously lived-in settlement in American. Pueblos have lived their for more than 1000 years (including approximately 100 who live full-time currently despite the lack of running water and electricity).

I went into this one guy's store where he was making and selling 'fried bread' (delicious with a little honey). I was the only customer and we managed to engage in a good convo. Eventually, I summoned my courage (oh how BrAve!) and asked him, 'uh, what name do you guys really like to call yourselves?' He laughed and said (without reservation), 'actually, we call ourselves Indians, and you will get the same answer from any other Indian you ask'. He said that once kids started playing 'cowboys and indians', it was pretty much all over re the name game.

I couldn't really argue with that, but I still hold that my native state (Indiana) has the lamest state name of all fifty states. Naming yourself after a geographical misunderstanding ('Indiana - the state that honors the place where Columbus thought he landed') is just wrong. To further compound the inanity, the capital city 'Indianapolis', literally the 'Indian City' could just as easily be called the city based on the stupid name of the worst named state in the union.

Of course, I am a native Hoosier - who's yer daddy???

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About me

  • I'm John H
  • From Salemtown, Tennessee, United States
  • Cruising past 50, my wife and I have reared three kids and several dogs. I work for state government and daily conspire to deflate bureacracy.
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