April 28, 2015

Indians aren't "Indian enough" for Biloxi

Some postings show what happens when you engage with mascot fanatics:

Not “Indian Enough”

Biloxi High School Alumni Perpetuate Ignorance, Cyberbully Natives, and Dictate Who is “Indian Enough” to Have an Opinion in Cultural Appropriation Debate.

By Kayla Faith
Although the Biloxi High School has long been listed on the American Indian Sports Team Mascots website as racist, the recent display of its uniform blasphemy at D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival has opened the floodgates of opposition. Natives and their allies have stood up against racist mascots and symbolism for decades, but this new age of social media has helped to finally level the playing field. Voices that were once drowned out are finally being heard, especially in Washington where a racial slur is still being casually thrown around in the name of sports. Seeing this display of mockery–an entire marching band in sacred war bonnets–was something no person with any cultural sensitivity or a sense of respect could ignore.

Deloria Lane Many Grey Horses-Violich is one of these people. Peacefully, she generated a Change.org petition calling for Biloxi Superintendent Arthur McMillan to emancipate indigenous peoples from the cultural appropriation of our Tunica-Biloxi cousins. She eloquently defends the teenagers being subjected to the perpetuation of cultural appropriation, stating, “If you want to play the trumpet and represent your school, you have to wear an item that is sacred to many Native cultures.”
Biloxi supporters and detractors argued back and forth until this:“If it turns out that they are in fact offended by the uniform,” McWilliams writes, “we will see if we can compromise as far as uniforms are concerned.” Not only does McWilliams confirm that there is no known consent by the Tunica-Biloxi people to use them as a mascot, but she states they will compromise–not resolve–on the issue of their offense.

But next the alumni begin arguing that the Biloxi people themselves are not “Indian enough.” “Their ancestry cannot be 100% confirmed,” McWilliams states, claiming that many think “the tribe, and factual descendants are extinct.” Ignoring the tribe’s status of federal recognition, the group focuses instead on how “watered down” the tribe members are, and question if they’re even Biloxi at all. Lateacha states, “The Biloxi blood line is dead and only traces reside in those at Tunica-Biloxi. In fact you can find old Biloxi French families with as much Biloxi in them. I’d still love to hear from Tunica-Biloxi, but let’s be honest there is no real ‘Voice of the Tribe’ left.”

You want “purebloods”? What are we, dogs?
Below:  "Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich whose Facebook account was repeatedly suspended due to her Indigenous surname."

Faith's conclusion:These Biloxi Alumni demonstrate they honor nothing but stereotypes, cultural appropriation, themselves, and the “Indian” ideal that genuine Natives are fighting to remove. They have no cultural sensitivity and refuse to obtain a proper education in the matter. Furthermore, while indigenous peoples are busy fighting for every aspect of their equality, they are being accused of having “more important things to do”. Apparently adults reminiscing over high school and working overtime to keep racism in the education system is a more important thing to do. These “BHS Indians” pass judgment on “real Indians,” calling them “racists” and “whiners” for standing up for their sovereignties and rights as human beings. As a result, more civilized residents of Biloxi have joined the anti-mascot side in sympathy of the Natives, saying they are disgusted with their ex-classmates’ words and their childish actions. In fact, many have signed our petition.

It is absolutely imperative for the citizens of this country to wake up and realize the unnecessary harm being done by the continued use of racist mascots. The documented psychological damage on both Native and non-Native children should be proof enough of the necessity to change. Humans are not predisposed to prejudice; instead, we are teaching our non-indigenous children cultural insensitivity and our indigenous children low self-worth. We are perpetuating the lies of what constitutes being “Indian enough” and what doesn’t. Stop this injustice, Biloxi, like you finally stopped racially segregating your students in 1970. It’s time we moved beyond delusions of racial inequality.
Debating a Biloxi supporter

Kayla Faith also took on a Biloxi High supporter who offered the usual tired arguments for Indian mascots. A sample:

A response to a Biloxi resident3. When a school, sports team, company, etc. chooses a mascot they seek out a symbol that reflects their beliefs and conveys a message about their organization, product, people, etc.

Right, they do. Because there is symbolism behind what they choose. However, when a human being is chosen as a mascot–specifically an entire race of people who identify instead by their own nations–is used by non-Natives to sell their product or promote their image, this is not out of honor. Do you really think these mascots, chosen in times when Natives weren’t even allowed to be American citizens, were really honoring anything? No, they were chosen because Natives were considered non-human. Boarding schools, some of which closed within my lifetime, were set in place by the government to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man”–stripping them of all their clothes, language, religion, anything that made them “Indian”. Children taken from home and assimilated. The government did this. In its very motto, the program clearly parallels a dead Indian to a saved man. Just in case you still didn’t get it, Indian =/= Man. Indian=Animal. Indian=Savage. Indian=Your Mascot, based on these beliefs. These mascots were chosen because they were savage, uncontrollable animals, noted for their resilience to assimilation. WE are proud of our resilience to assimilation, but THEY were not. THEY tried to beat it out of our ancestors. To THEM, we were worthless farm animals to be tamed and broken. No different than the way they treated our black cousins. THAT is why this HAS TO STOP.

4. Biloxi High School chose the Biloxi Indian based on the history of the Biloxi Indian Tribe who resided here but also because it represents strength, honor, spirit, bravery and character.

There is no evidence of why they chose this. If you think that name represents those things, then you believe in the Indian stereotype. The Tanêks simply left. They wanted nothing to do with the British. I am not speaking ill of them when I say their leaving in no way earns them the right to be stereotyped as the resilient “savage.” They were resilient, absolutely, but not in a way you comprehend. You don’t recognize their struggle for federal recognition because, as you demonstrated in your dialogue with us, you know nothing about Indian Affairs, Tribal Law, or our histories. You just pretend like you do, but you’re reiterating the same stereotyping lies that we have had to shoot down time and time again. When will it end??
Below:  Old school images show how Biloxi High students have always viewed Indians in false and stereotypical terms.

Someone listens to an Indian

One person did listen to the Indians who protested the Biloxi "Indians," including one from the Tunica-Biloxi tribe. His name is Jean-Luc Pierite and she began her response to him:

Just a Biloxi girl….Who has opened her eyesHe said mockery, people. MOCKERY. This is the truest, most heartfelt opinion about the Tribe’s feelings that he could give. The fact is: we are not honoring them. At all. Period. End of discussion. There are ifs, ands, or buts. It’s a done deal. All these years, it’s been viewed as nothing but a mockery. And an imaginary honorary tradition. It was quite clear to me what this article said, even if just in the undertones of it.

Some also felt that his article was an attack directed towards Deloria Many Grey Horses, who originated the petition to change the uniform of the marching band. By the end of his article, he suggest that people educate themselves on his tribe. Many people thought he was directing that to the opposition. Wrong. So. Very. Wrong. His target was none other than those in favor of supporting the headdress and mascot. Those who claimed it to be “heritage,” “tradition” and “in honor of.” Those who claimed “honor” then in the next sentence said something disparaging towards a Native American culture. Oh, okay. So it’s okay to make a “joke” about something, but it’s not okay when those you are joking about take offense? Right….

Deloria Many Grey Horses has a picture on several of these articles. It is of her, holding a sign that says “#notyourmascotbiloxi.” Many of the alumni, sadly including myself, took a stab at this. Many negative remarks were made. Things like “Of course she’s not. She’s not even American.” or “She is psycho. Of COURSE she’s not our mascot. Who is stupid enough to want her as one?”

Many people felt that Deloria has an agenda. A personal vendetta, for no good reason. I, too, felt that she was just attacking the school because she could. I did extensive research on Deloria prior to Jean-Luc’s article. I did even more after. What did I find? I found that Deloria, in fact, DOES have an agenda. GASP! Of course she does. Her agenda is this: to bring an end to the racism and discrimination towards Native People. Towards ALL people. She aims to educate the populace about the negative effects these types of incidents have on our youth. OUR YOUTH. Not just Native American youth.
Comment:  For more on Biloxi High School, see Biloxi Headdresses Are "Dignified and Proper"? and Indians Protest Biloxi "Indians."

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