I know, I know. It's been a while since I've blogged ANYTHING let alone what was supposed to be a weekly roundup of #SettlerNonsense. But I been busy. And the truth is that while I hope to get back into at least a few blogs I've been working on over the next few days, I may also get distracted and need a few more weeks before that happens. SO MUCH is going on in Indian Country these days that I just want to say a few things before I begin:
This week in #SettlerNonsense: The WTF is THIS edition
WTF is this?
This is a card made by TOPPS cards that people can buy and collect as part of this series. You buy a package, you get some cards. This is one of those cards. Made in 2016. For collecting now, in 2016. Brought to my attention by a colleague and student. A student who bought this card. In 2016.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
Hey you don't gotta tell me. I really don't know WTF this is. It's supposed to be a (humorous?) advertisement/cartoon for an Atlanta Braves cutlery set that uses tomahawks to "chop, slice and dice" things? The worst is the "Carve up the competition..." slogan.
Now somebody is going to say "It's just a cartoon" and also "It's SUPPOSED to be kind of offensive cause it's SATIRE and you have no sense of humor."
I don't. I'm one of those "merciless Indian savages" who never jokes about nothing. Instead I mercilessly savage all over the place and then cry cause someone littered and then go home and be offended by Indian mascots. This makes me a hoot at dinner parties.
The problem with this cartoon/card is that it is yet again a publicly consumable and (seemingly) socially acceptable stereotyping of Native people as savage, primitive and magical.
"But there are no Indians actually in this picture."
True. But there are tools associated with Indians in stereotypical ways. And the name of the team is the "Braves" (also stereotypically associated with Indians) and, come on, everybody knows that this is associated with the Indian warriors/ hunters/ savages of "yore."
In this photo the stereotypes are so prominent it's hard to see how anyone could look at it and not go "oh yeah, you use the tomahawk like those Indians, chop and throw and carve up the competition.'"
Point 1: You know who was actually being carved up back in "yore" times? Indians. It was Europeans who introduced scalping to the Americas (not a common Indian practice FYI). Settlers were then paid money for Indian scalps and heads. Prices ranged depending on region. But this was a practice that happened all throughout the United States. Here is one example from Massachusetts.
By 1702, Massachusetts offered 10 pounds for every scalp from a male Indian age 10 and older. That price increased to 20 pounds then 100, Grenier wrote. Scalps taken from women fetched 10 pounds each, while children under the age of 10 were sold into slavery with proceeds going to the scalp hunters.
So really? This not only recalls Native stereotypes of savagery but also turns around and reminds Native people how much settlers like to "carve up the competition." #Nope
Point 2: There's a flame of some sort? Or a big BOOM thing coming out of the tomahawk when it hits the baseball. See, the implication is that Natives are magic. Our tomahawks were like magic. They were strong and made big booms?
Ever notice how in the movies a Native person can throw a tomahawk and it travels miles upon miles and hits someone square in the head? That's also a throw back to "yore." See in people's minds, "yore" was so dangerous for the nice, civilized settler. Any magical Native could come about at any time and just kill them. These stories of all powerful, all warrior, all savage Natives were all over the country. (Hence the MERCILESS INDIAN SAVAGES in the Declaration of Independence.) These tales SOLD MORE PAPERS after all. So when people would go out and encounter a Native they were perfectly okay with a shoot first mentality. Because Natives can throw a tomahawk from miles upon miles away and hit them square in the head!
And now, Natives have one of the highest rates of being killed by police (AND WE ARE LESS THAN 2% of the POPULATION). Why did I go there? Cause it matters. It matters that in our cultural imagination Natives are "merciless" and "savage." And that when you "honor them" (you know, cause these mascots are supposed to be all honoring) you do that by saying "they were so warrior like and savage and their tomahawks were good for carving up the competition." And then when you encounter Native people (as we did back in yore, as we do today cause... still here) they are not human like you, they aren't civilized like you, they are the merciless Indian savages. A stereotype brought to life.
P.S. If you need a tutorial about why stereotyping is a problem (and you shouldn't) let me leave you with research about why stereotypes of ANY GROUP are harmful and damaging. For this research I googled "Why are stereotypes bad?"
Wanna know what you can do other than buy a card that is degrading to Native people that REALLY shows how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
WTF is this?
This is "Pawa." He is the mascot for Justin-Siena high school in Napa, California. In 2016. You can find out all about him here on this website, in 2016. He goes to games and poses with students and wears traditional looking regalia that is supposed to be representative of local Native people to the area. In 2016. Apparently Natives are very beige.
We must pause to consider that according to articles written about "Pawa," the school worked with a local tribe who gave approval over this iteration of the mascot. Of course there have been others who have come out against it as well.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
I'm not going to argue about "which Indian gets final say over whether or not we can do a racist/derogatory thing?" This happens a lot. "But my Native American friend said..." Fine. You got someone to approve your racist/derogatory thing. Good for you. That doesn't make it 1. less racist or 2. less problematic or 3. less damaging and in this case 4. any less creepy. This guy kinda creeps me out. Why is he so beige?
I have come across lately several instances of people trying to convince me that there has to be some way to make Indian mascots more socially, politically, and psychologically "acceptable."
"What if we didn't do a tomahawk chop?"
"What if we didn't paint the face or the body?"
"What if we didn't do any war whoops or do any of the dances?"
How can we fix this racist Indian mascot? JUST DON'T HAVE AN INDIAN MASCOT.
It's so simple. Sometimes I hate that it is that simple but people make it so complicated.
Because consider this. What is a mascot?
"a person or thing that is supposed to bring good luck or that is used to symbolize a particular event or organization." (dictionary.com)
No but really, what is a mascot?
Is a mascot a complex story and engagement with identity, culture, history, sovereignty and Indigenous futures? Is a mascot a literary, artistic or musical testimony to survivance? Is it a decolonizing methodology? Does a mascot provide legal, political and social support for the return of stolen lands? Does it intervene on settler colonial systems of law, environment and education that are set up to erase and degrade Indigenous peoples continuing existence? Does a mascot support treaty rights? Does a mascot make you stand up and chant "Natives are still here! This is very clear! Honor the treaties every day. Honor the treaties in every way. Oh yeah, and beat the other team at this sports game."
No? Then sit down.
Because we KNOW that mascots are damaging for Native people (especially Native children). Take for instance:
And WhateverTF this is (in the picture) is NOT the image that is going to inspire people to finally get up out of the stands and support Native people in their self-determination. THIS mascot is cray. It's cray. Maybe the regalia is a little bit more accurate to local Native people of the area, but it's still a mascot.
Wanna know what you can do other than continue to support a mascot that just contributes to stereotypes that will REALLY show how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
WTF is this?
This is "authentic Native American Regalia" being marketed to the masses as "perfect" for a Halloween costume.
BUT SERIOUSLY WTF?
I've written about what it's like to be a Native on Halloween.
I've written about how people should STOP wearing headdresses, dummy.
Other people have written about why we should stop dressing up as Indians on Halloween. Freaking, Cosmo got in on the action.
There are videos about it.
So there is really NO EXCUSE for this to ever happen, ever.
But the caption is what made me and my friends giggle:
Authentic Native American Regalia also perfect for Halloween.
So of course as inspired by my friend Ozzie I started coming up with other (stereotypical) things this "Authentic Native American Regalia" is good for...
ALSO perfect for going to the side of the road and crying while somebody litters.
ALSO perfect for dancing... with wolves.
Wanna know what you can do other than dress up as a stereotype for Halloween that will REALLY show how much you honor and respect Native people: Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
Palette cleanser: Here is a video about all the awesome that is going on at the Sacred Stone Camp.
Contribute to the Legal Defense Fund for Sacred Stone Spirit Camp.
Thank you/Shout out to Ozzie Monge and Grace Sesma for calling my attention to these problematic/cray images.
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Assistant Professor of American Indian Studies at San Diego State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, fan of "The Good Wife" and "The Walking Dead", who likes to go for long walks on long piers...
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