Opinion: A response to ‘Beyond the icon’
To the editor:
I am writing in response to the article entitled, “Beyond the Icon.” I am not Wampanoag so these thoughts are strictly my own.
Beginning in elementary school I faced seemingly endless subtle and not so subtle racism in the classroom and the curriculum. I went to a high school that still has an Indian mascot and found that enormously degrading. The highly distorted version of U.S. history we were taught made matters worse. Maybe that is partially why Natives make up less than 1% of persons holding doctorates in the US.
Given that, here are some thoughts:
I believe that if the community really cared about the impact of the logo on Native people here, they would have asked tribal leaders to have a referendum among their members, then acted accordingly.
The phrase, “those who once inhabited these lands” is essentially a means of erasing the Native presence now, it’s used all over the country, sometimes a block away from tribal offices. Given there are at least 15 million of us Natives in the U.S., such statements are disingenuous at best. We are literally everywhere.
Suppose someone stole your bike and when you went to claim it they insisted it was theirs. Now suppose you took them to court and the judge agreed with the thief, how might you feel? The lands we live on were stolen from the Wampanoag and no amount of historical erasure will change that,
Finally, if the town really wants to honor Native culture and history, it probably should make Native people, chosen by their tribes, decision makers rather than advisers. The only way I can imagine truly honoring the Native experience is to make Native voices and views equal to those of settlers in the curriculum and town culture.
Honoring others is easy as long as one holds all the power.
Michael Watson, Ph.D.,