Michael Malone, 19, accused deputies of pointing a Taser at him and making racist remarks during a recent encounter in the Temecula area.
Malone, who identified himself as a member of the Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, said he believes the deputies detained him because he's American Indian.
It's unclear why deputies stopped Malone.
The deputies said, "Yee-haw, boys, we caught us an Injun," Malone recounted during a meeting of tribal leaders this week in San Jacinto.
Malone said the deputies indicated they thought he was a member of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, which has been locked in a dispute with the Sheriff's Department.
Do I need to explain the connection between this and the mascot and stereotyping issues I often raise? Okay, I will. Mascots and other Native stereotypes let us view Indians as the "other." In that mindset, "we" means white Christian Americans. "They" means the dark-skinned people who wear odd headdresses, paint their faces, and worship rocks and trees. We tolerate them, unless they break the law or simply look funny, but we don't embrace them. We don't accept that they're as American as we are.
Mascots and other Native stereotypes are a primary cause of this lack of understanding and empathy. If we don't believe Indians are normal human beings, we can't relate to them. That leads us to treat them as if they're stray animals who wandered out of the corral (i.e., off the reservation).
Below: Another "cowboy" finds a stray "Injun."