Scalp 'Em Raiders
Native American leaders used the first-ever State of the Tribes address Tuesday to call on the state Legislature for action to ban school nicknames, such as the Waunakee Warriors, the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains, the Poynette Indians, the Belmont Braves and the Potosi Chieftains.
Okay, timeout for full disclosure here. My high school's nickname is still the Red Raiders. And yes, the mascot is a Native American. Back in the day, we had some kid who would dress up in an Indian headress and everything. Oh, and it gets worse. Way back in the day, according to reader KV Big Sis, the students would even do "Scalp 'em Raiders" chants at games (hence the title of this post).
And, to be honest, I think names like the "Red Raiders" or the "Washington Redskins" really are offensive and they should be changed. However, these Native American leaders aren't doing themselves any favors by going after such ridiculously inoffensive names like "Braves", "Chieftans" or "Warriors".
The Wisconsin Indian Education Association says that "Indians are people, not mascots", as if the two are mutually exclusive. They're not. That's why we've managed to tolerate nicknames honoring, in the NFL alone, meat packers, pirates, patriots, Vikings, cowboys, Texans, gold prospectors and saints.
And, it's not just athletic teams that have Indian names. You'll note that Wisconsin is derived from an Indian word, and, of course, as Alice Cooper famously noted, Milwaukee is Algonquin for "the good land".
Generally speaking, you don't choose a name as a way to denigrate something or someone. In America, sports teams are given names that have some local flavor and sound like they'll prevail in a battle: hence the Warriors, the Braves, the Illini and the Fighting Sioux.
I posted earlier this week about the misguided quest for perfection in public policy. I feel that these Native American leaders, and those who support them, are trying to create some kind of perfectly inoffensive society. That's impossible. Yes, there are some very offensive nicknames out there. But to most people, there's a huge difference between the Red Raiders and the Braves. If Native American leaders refuse to make that distinction, they will fail to change any names at all.
Case in point, one of the latest issues here in Madison is with a bay on Lake Monona scandalously named "Squaw Bay". People are beginning to see how ridiculous and difficult it is to offend no one:
"I think there are better things to worry about than changing the name of something that's been named for like a hundred years," said resident Bruce Barlow, who has lived on the bay for three years. "But, I guess it's politically incorrect, so somebody's going to make a big deal out of nothing."
Concerned Squaw Bay resident Jim Guilfoil maintains the issue is about civil rights: first Jews, then blacks and women, and now Native Americans, he said.
"I feel we've learned a lot since World War II about what racism is," said Guilfoil.
Guilfoil says the word "squaw" is derogatory, referring to women's genitalia.
"Squaw is a translation -- an English word used by settlers to refer to a lesser woman," said Guilfoil. "That's no longer acceptable. I don't care how long people have done it, it's just not acceptable."
Monona Mayor Robb Kahl is willing to listen but concerned about where the debate could lead.
"This could open a can a worms because Winneque is a major road in our city and name of a middle school," said Kahl. "It apparently means Winnebego squaw. I don't think anyone is in a rush to change Winnequa. I'm certainly not."
A few people may think "squaw", or "brave" or "warrior" is derogatory, but the vast majority are eventually going to get sick of being pushed around but a shrill, vocal minority that tries to equate high school mascots and nicknames with the Holocaust.
Posted by at March 9, 2005 10:11 PM
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|# March 10th, 2005 12:10 AM james|
, meat packers, pirates, patriots, Vikings, cowboys, Texans, gold prospectors and saints.
kris, can we discern anything about your secret likes or dislikes based on your chosen capitalization?
I can understand capitalizing Texans.
|# March 10th, 2005 12:14 AM james|
PC case and point: if you don't think that some of the terms that you named are offensive, i'm sure that the response of the other side is to say "well, you're just not educated enough. you need more "education" so you think like we do.
|# March 10th, 2005 12:39 AM Daddy|
|My favorite derogatory nickname--that no one ever mentions--is the FIGHTING IRISH.
And the Irish are always fighting, aren't they? For they're halftime shows, they oughta blow up buses, or at least stage a Donnybrook (named after a town in Ireland).
Why not call the team the Bargaining Jews, or the Dancing Blacks?
(apologies to George Carlin).
All this violence, drunkenness, and destruction of property--are these the things we think of, when we think of the Irish?
(apologies to The Simpsons).
I remember a "60 Minutes" piece a LLOOOOONNNNGGG time ago, with an Indian leader who was really passionate about this cause. He said the names "Chiefs" and "Braves" aren't offensive in and of themselves, but the fans' behavior was offensive.
In the end, I think all they want is for the Washington Redskins to change their name. I'm with that. Keep the logo, keep the colors, but for the love of us all....it ain't 1936 anymore.
|# March 10th, 2005 12:57 AM Daddy|
|Oh, in other sports, we have the following nicknames:
CANUCKS (I guess if you pin the label on yourself, it's OK; kinda like Black people using the *n* word).
CANADIENS (how ethno-centric can ya get?)
KNICKS (short for Knickerbockers, which, it could be argued, was a term used to make fun of the way Dutch settlers dressed. "Your mama dresses you funny!").
though none of these are ethno-centric, they largely pertain to Americans. I think. Maybe not Cavs.
BLUE JACKETS (possibly named for the Union Army in the civil war).
REBLES (...and they'd be the other side).
I guess I'm trying to say: Redskins I get; but the whole rest of it, fan behavior included, oughta be dropped. Indian tribes have bigger fish to fry.
|# March 10th, 2005 1:04 AM james|
|i think that's bigger buffalo to skin, daddy |
|# March 10th, 2005 7:02 AM kris|
|I don't know what you're trying to imply, James. I just capitalized proper nouns.
You know, the other side needs to get that you don't have a right to go through life without getting offended. You have a right to say you find something offensive and the rest of us have the right to ignore you or tell you to lighten up.
|# March 10th, 2005 8:20 AM drew|
|I've never heard Red Raiders have anything to do with Native Americans before. Texas Tech is the Red raiders, but their mascot is some Yosemite Sam kind of character. |
|# March 10th, 2005 8:46 AM BVBigBro|
|Our red raider is an indian. He used to dress as in a fake buckskin costume and do a very cool dance around the cheerleaders on the court while the fans pounded their hands and feet on the bleachers to simulate war drums. I was waiting for them to drop the red from the name. It really should be done. |
|# March 10th, 2005 9:57 PM MrBlue|
| It's hard to see what the probelemb is. Alot of the school names down here are named after tribes or pueblos. Sandia, Monzano, Tahique, that or have long inpronouncable spanish names.Thier mascots,Eagles, Wildcats, and Lobos. |