By Jacqueline Keeler
As a Dakota, I am particularly offended by the wearing of chicken feather versions of our eagle feather headdresses and I blogged about it here: "Washington Redsk*ns, Indian Mascotry & Owl Man" and here "Why We Still Mourn Wounded Knee." My ancestor Owl Man had worn his headdress, given to him as a mark of honor by his own people, when he came to the White House in 1867. My family still tells the stories of how he worked to preserve the Dakota people through those terrible times. Our Dakota people did not fight to survive so drunken football fans could honor us by wearing our headdresses to their sporting events and hold up “scalp ‘em” signs as FSU Seminoles fans did at the Rose Bowl.
After we decided on our new hashtag, we kept #NotYourMascot under wraps and shared it only within our social media circles through direct messaging and email. We wanted to make sure it was not co-opted by spammers, too.
On Saturday night at 9pm Eastern we unveiled it to the world. This was the suggestion of Suey Park a social media activist and writer. She had great success with her hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick and trended it to number one nationally earlier this year. Still, even with her help, I was doubtful our hashtag could gain traction during the Super Bowl, with more than 111 million viewers this year.
I was particularly discouraged by a recent poll that indicated more than 90 percent of Americans claim to have never even met a Native American. They may have but just didn’t know it because the Native person they met was not decked out in feathers and buckskin. How could we hope to make an impact on social media, especially if so few Americans were even aware we still exist in the age of Twitter?
Then, half an hour in, Suey Park sent me a screenshot of us trending nationally. I was amazed. We had allies in the Asian American and other people of color communities online. We had like-minded sports fans like the D.C.-based @Fans4NT and @ChangeRacism. We had determined Native people who were tweeting their hearts out to make sure they were heard.
In so doing, they made a little history of their own. Activists ambushed Twitter with a "Twitter Storm" using the hashtag and managed to get their message into the "Trending Topics" list as the NFL was in full Super Bowl mode. That's no small feat: Not only was the big game all over Twitter, so were tweets of protest about the league's most controversial team name, the Washington Redskins.
The substance of the tweets included not just words of support, but also--importantly, since the internet is a visual medium--meme images and graphics about the issue, as well as photos of regular Natives just being proud of who they are. We've collected a great deal of those in this gallery--it's a pretty stunning effort by some passionate and plugged-in people.