Anger over mascots focuses on the wrong issue

December 11, 2014 Letters to the Editor Print Print
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To the Editor:

During the Stalinist Era it was dangerous to have opinions that varied from the established Party line. History was falsified to make it fit. Let us not do that in this country. We have wronged Native peoples enough without making up things.

“Redskins” does not refer to scalping. Vine Deloria Jr., the long-time authority in the American Indian Movement, and a successful Native American scholar, author, attorney, and philosopher, published “God Is Red” in 1972, and the book is now universally considered a classic on Native American spiritually.

The renowned Cherokee Chief, Wilma Mankiller called the book “The flagship … on Native American Spirituality.” The title of Professor Arrell Gibson’s “Land of the Red Man” was derived from two Choctaw words “Okla homa.” Anyone who knew Dr. Gibson knows he was always sympathetic to the plight of Native peoples. He would never have titled his book in a way to offend.

Ruth Underhill’s “Red Man’s Religion,” Ernest T. Seton’s “Gospel of the Red Man,” Wilcomb Washburn’s “Red Man’s Land, White Man’s Law,” Jennings Wise’s “Red Man in The New World,” and Gary B. Nash’s “Red, White, and Black: The Peoples of Early North America,” referred in every instance to perceived colors, and nothing more.

Sadly it is true that Europeans, Euro-Americans, and Native Americans were all guilty of taking scalps, and it seems obvious that whatever the color of the person, the scalp taken from the person would be a redskin.

The current brouhaha over mascots is, in my view, a disservice to Native Americans because it detracts from more fundamentally serious issues such as water rights, fishing rights, and the poverty in which Native Americans still live whether in urban areas or on reservations.

The taking of Native lands was wrong to the same extent that eminent domain is wrong today. Having admitted that wrong was done, we should also admit that wrong is still being done, and that Native Americans today are as marginalized in our society as they have ever been.

Will changing mascots really change that? I am proud to be a Capitol Hill High School graduate and proud to be a Capitol Hill Redskin. I regret that historical ignorance dictates that money we could be using to help students is being used to change mascots.

—Ray McCullar

History professor

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