By Ian McCann
They say calling their neighborhood the Reservation is controversial and possibly offensive to American Indians. The neighborhood association is expected to resolve the issue later this month.
Neighborhood leaders, while acknowledging the injustice of past treatment of American Indians, said reservations no longer hold the same negative connotation they once may have had.
"This is what the neighborhood has been known as for 45 years," association president Darrell Day said. "We're sensitive to their concern. We mean absolutely no disrespect for the American Indian community."
In a written statement, a group of people pushing for the change said they supported using the area's legal description, Estates North. The neighborhood, located near Arapaho and Coit roads, has been called Reservation because streets within it are largely named for tribes--for example, Cherokee and Seminole.
"We understand that invoking references to American Indian history is controversial," the group said. "For this reason alone, we feel that our neighborhood should adopt a moniker that is noncontroversial. In this way, we can ensure that we remain respectful to all people either living in or passing through our city."
I'm sure many Indians take pride in their reservations, but they also recognize the injustices that created them. Recall that the US government forced many Indians to sign away their freedom and confine themselves to reservations. The US military made sure they stayed there. Indians may want to celebrate their survival--the lives they've made in their new homes. But it's not something anyone else should be celebrating.
It would be like calling a predominantly white neighborhood the Hood (like a black neighborhood) or the Ghetto (like a Jewish neighborhood). Again, blacks and Jews might celebrate their own neighborhoods with such a name, but they would recognize its double-edged meaning. "They" forced us to live here, they might think, but we made something positive of it.
That's not something a white neighborhood adopting the name Reservation, Hood, or Ghetto can claim.
Celebrating captive Indians
What's the real message of streets named for chiefs and a neighborhood named "Reservation"? It's about the same as that of an Indian mascot. These people are celebrating primitive chiefs of the past. Indians confined to reservations. America "settled" with no more Indian "trouble." America at peace with white people on top.
In other words, more of our national myth-making. Our triumphal march to victory over the godless devils. We came, we saw, we conquered, and now we graciously acknowledge our fallen foes. Which proves how mighty and noble our spirit is.
For more on the subject, see "Reservation" Out, "Tee Pee" and "Indians" In and Why Americans Exploit Indians.
Below: We celebrate the Indian by parading him like a tame bear.