March 08, 2009

Every day is "Indian Day"

Educator Debbie Reese provides an excerpt from American Indian Magazine about the proclamation of "Indian Day":There is yet a widespread tendency to think of the American Indian as he used to be, rather than as he now is. Where is the small boy who does not picture the Indian as a savage in war paint and feathers, ready to sally forth with tomahawk and spear to avenge himself upon his foes? Where is the small girl who does not avoid reading the Indian stories which so delight her brother, and does not feel sorry for other little girls who live on prairies where they are liable to an unexpected visit from the Indians almost any hour of the day or night? Where is the father who does not enjoy getting an Indian costume for his little boy and even take pleasure in helping him put up a wigwam in the back yard? And where is the mother who does not clap her hands over her ears when that same small son and his pals chase one another round the house, "yelling like Indians"?Comment:  When do you think this was written? Fifty years ago? Twenty-five? Ten?

No. Reese tells us she found it in American Indian Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 2, April-June, 1916, page 189. She adds:Written almost 100 years ago, it could have been written yesterday...

The day to honor Native peoples? That'd be "American Indian Day" celebrated the day after Thanksgiving.

The small boy of today, if asked to draw an Indian, would certainly draw one in paint and feathers.

The small girl takes great delight in reading Little House on the Prairie.

The father getting an Indian costume and wigwam for his son? Hmm... Boy Scouts, maybe? Order of the Arrow?

And the mother who asks her small son and his pals to stop "yelling like Indians"? If you search Google blogs with "wild Indians" you'll find Todd, writing on March 1st, 2009 "...I would not tolerate them acting like a couple of wild Indians..." and Heather, on March 2nd, "I told the boys to settle down and quit acting like wild Indians..." and Raj, on March 3rd, "...Newton and Pye, running around the house like a pair of wild Indians."
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 3/4/09.)

Considering how we stereotype and marginalize Indians, every day is "Indian Day." We "honor" them by putting old-fashioned Indians on coins, statues, and sports logos. Then we continue the behavior described above.

In other words, we honor them with one day of alleged honors and 364 days of phony or offensive "honors." When we celebrate how "noble and brave" they were, we're really celebrating how fierce and savage they were. Indians may be forgiven for wondering, "Where's the honor?"

For more on the subject, see A Month and a Day for Indians.

Below:  "This am big honor for us red man. Me like'um."

No comments: