VIEWPOINT: A genocide of the mind
VIEWPOINT: A genocide of the mind
By Chase Iron Eyes
Published Sunday, November 18, 2007
AURORA, Colo. - The heart of the problem is a conceptual flaw in the
practice of using Indian logos. We don't want change simply because we
disagree semantically with the word Sioux. No, we want change because our
very identity is under attack.
This issue is not about Indians complaining about degrading treatment from
non-Indians. This is about our own existence.
Since we lost control of our spiritual self-determination, it has been very
hard for our children to learn that their sense of self-worth comes from
our living religion.
A transformation happened when a collective Euro-American consciousness
began to dictate what is the essence of an American Indian. This
transformation made the existence of Indian nicknames possible.
But the practice of using Indian nicknames is evidence of that
transformation. This transformation also is called objectification.
The most devastating aspect of Indians as nicknames and logos is the
objectification of our race.
Objectification goes back to the days of the papal bulls that claimed
non-Christians had no rights of their own, as well as to stories about the
white experience in Indigenous country. Stories were widespread about the
savage red men just beyond the frontier.
The very fact that a group of folks tried to define a culture
demonstrates that Sioux identity was under attack from a forceful
objectification that would supplant all conceptions, even our own, of
No longer are we living our identity; we are looking at it through a lens
created by the European - a lens in which Indians are inferior and whites
are superior. We are looking through a lens created and shown by the use of
Indians as team nicknames and mascots.
Inevitably, we judge our own Indianness based on the whole of our life
experiences and learning. Largely, the whole of our learning consists of
foreign perceptions and views on the world, learned in schools, on TV and
from other outlets.
Creating a team name based on a race of people makes it easier for Indians
and non-Indians to sense that object group (Indians) as something different
than the group using the nickname (humans).
This process is dehumanization. It is the subtle shift in thinking that
takes place when we are used as team nicknames.
The Indian nickname dilemma is so dangerous because it is doing significant
damage while a large portion of us are unaware of it. Because the
objectification of Indians is so widespread, accepted and
institutionalized, we unwittingly buy into the idea that Indian team
nicknames are harmless.
In reality, this objectification is undercutting our self-esteem and it is
damaging the way the world sees us.
It is our cultural/intellectual resources being taken from us - our
identity. We get nothing but ridicule and disdain for our faiths, cultures
and identities. Our kids and people are still subjected to scorn for our
identity when they see that our essence is being objectified.
Why has the Indian nickname and logo remained? People see this as something
not affecting their day-to-day lives. But make no mistake, the problem is
not abstract; this practice causes damage to our own individual and
national self esteem.
By not allowing our essence to be misappropriated and outright disrespected
by others, we are promoting proper spiritual, mental and emotional health
for our wicoicage or future generations. We will not see this debate go
away any time soon. It will remain so long as Natives with informed senses
of identity survive into the new millennium.
Iron Eyes is a UND graduate and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.