In an editorial in the Saturday September 13 edition, the Grand Rapids Press criticized the NCAA’s recent edict barring hostile or abusive American Indian names, mascots and other symbols. Claiming that while “abuse of American Indian names and cultures is one thing…respectful presentation of such words and imagery is another,” the Grand Rapids press promulgates the common yet false notion that some Native American sports team names and logos are intended to “connote respect, recognition of proud traditions”. The Grand Rapids Press claims that these “respectful” team names “helps to connect present-day America with the larger story of our country” and that “names drawn from America’s Indian past enrich the country. They honor American Indians and keep them in memory.”
Given the long and sordid history of violence, exploitation and genocide perpetrated by Euro America upon the indigenous peoples of North America, the naming of sports teams seems a rather strange form of respect. Considering the ongoing oppression, racism, and poverty faced by many Native Americans, claims of “respect” from the white society that has relegated them to the bottom of the social strata must ring hollow indeed. It would be interesting to know if the editorial board (or the staff at large) of the Grand Rapids Press includes any Native American voices.
Commentary and websites on Native American team names and logos: