"It puts us in a box," Gover said. "I'm stunned by the number of people who are angry when they come to the museum and see it is about Indians who are still here, rather than Indians who used to be. They think modern Indians aren't real Indians because we're not like we were when Columbus set foot here."
Gover uses artists as an example.
"Any Native artist using modern media for their work is criticized," Gover said. "People say, 'That's not Indian art.' Even though it's an Indian making a statement about Indians. The media the artist chooses to use becomes disqualifying. It's crazy, and it's insulting.
"It's like saying it isn't legitimate unless it is the same way you were doing things in 1492," he said. "They wouldn't ask it of anyone else. They wouldn't say, 'You can't be a White man unless you're wearing knickers and tails. It's unique to Indians."
Being defined by others extends to sports mascots, where Indians are "honored" for their bravery.
"Why don't they honor us for being smart, creative, for all kinds of different things?" Gover asks. "Why choose the one? It tells us that you're stereotyping. You can't be Indian unless you're brave, whatever that means. It's ridiculous. It's just a tiny part of what Indians were and are."
For instance, when you tell people their Indian mascots are stereotypical, what do they do? Do they actually think about it, do some historical research, try to justify the stereotypes somehow? No, they lash out. They tell you they're "honoring" Indians, that you're being too "sensitive," that it's just "harmless fun."
In other words, they don't engage in the actual issues. They turn an intellectual question into an emotional one. "We love our mascot! We've had it forever! You're not taking it away from us!"
Essentially they're reacting like little children when you tell them they can't have a toy or a pet. The typical spoiled brat doesn't take it calmly; he screams and throws a tantrum. Whatever "reason" the whiner comes up with is illogical and insufficient. It amounts to nothing more than "I want it!"
For more on the subject, see Team Names and Mascots.
Below: Kevin Gover, an example of a modern Indian who angers non-Indians.