by Rashad Squalls
Taken from our ancestral lands to the football field, American society seems to get a kick out of the public use of Native American heritage for entertainment. Native American heritage is held highly sacred to its descendants. It is very disheartening to see and hear rituals, names, and Native regalia in the public as a mascot. No harm done, right? Wrong, NativeAmerican culture is practiced among Natives up to this present day. How long must Native Americans be held captive tooppression?
One must truly understand and respect the roots of someone’s heritage before being a part of it. America is supposed to stand for equality of all nations and races. Native life has become a part of the American society, but not entirely respectfully. To be seen in one of the media’s biggest entertainment industries as a mockery is disrespectful in many unspoken ways. Hopefully, as a nation we can come to some kind of understanding to why it is Native Americans feel as such. It’s unjust, hurtful, and uncaring to carry on with the parading of another culture’s heritage. It’s hard to stand by and watch an important part of history mocked.
Not only are we mocked in the entertainment field, retail products are also produced by non-Natives. A popular clothing line named Urban Outfitters created a panty line under the name of “Navajo.” Many fashion trends continue to create and sell Native American names. There are also ads that are very offensive to Native culture. One ad I discovered was from a cereal by the name of Post Toasties. This ad is very disturbing, it features Natives speaking about being full of energy because of Post Toasties. The ad goes on to say that corn is the best thing that the Natives have discovered.
Food, clothing, and entertainment are just a few examples of Native oppression. Vehicles have also been modeled using Native based names such as the Jeep Comanche, Jeep Cherokee, Winnebago (RV), and Pontiac. Pontiac, I actually discovered was a war chief who allied with the French. One of our most celebrated holidays in America, Halloween, is celebrated with costumes and props every year. I can guarantee that there will be many children and adults dressed as Native Americans all throughout our country.
Another thing that Americans opposed would be Native religion and spiritual beliefs. Christianity
has always been forced upon Natives to get them to convert over entirely. For example, here at Haskell I witnessed a man dressed in a suit handing out small New Testament bibles. I saw the Chick-fil-a fast food chain restaurant selling their food at one of our powwows (Christian-based franchise). It seems like Native religion has always been shunned by the Americansociety as a whole.
Native American schools are also few and far between in the United States. Natives are forced to put their children into public schools that teach their children to live the American way. History books in public schools offer false teachings and accounts of Native Americans. It’s because of improper teaching of history that Americans don’t fully understand and respect the Native ways of life. Overall, I am upset with all of the blatant disrespect from the media when it comes to Native American culture. Although Natives protest for our traditions to be kept sacred it only seems to egg on more companies to continue creating offensive media. If the roles were reversed I’m sure others would understand where we are coming from.
In order to stop American opposition we need more activists to stand up and be a voice for Native Americans. Although America is supposed to be based off of equality it has took a turn for the worse. We live in an age where it is okay to poke fun of someone else’s heritage. I find it ironic that more of the Spanish language is taught over Native tongues. I never truly understood why the teaching of foreigners’ languages have been put in the majority of universities and public schools when our land was founded by Native Americans.
There are many ways the American culture has dominated over that of Native Americans. America’s views continue to corrupt people’s minds with lies about our real history. Native American culture continues to be destroyed and mimicked throughout America. It’s up to us to teach our children Native traditions and raise them with respect for our heritage. Our ancestors died valuing the very land that was founded and inhabited by our people. America/media’s focus has always seemed to be one-sided. Either you’re American or you’re not, everyone else’s traditions and beliefs have always seemed to be put on hold. As a Native American it is important that we stand firm in with our traditions.