Appropriating Native American Imagery Honors No One but the Prejudice

Well, to anyone else who believes in turning a marginalized group of people into a goofy caricature, I’d like to ask: Who asked you to honor me? Let alone in this way? Cultural exploitation for profit in the name of respect is not how you honor a minority group. You honor someone important with a building named in their honor, a street named after them, a scholarship fund in their name or a key to the city -- not a sports mascot.

In 2001, after facing increased pressure from the Southern California Indian Center and others, Irvine Unified School District decided to retire Woodbridge High School’s Warrior mascot and imagery. The school would paint over the huge mural on the side of the gym of the anonymous Native American warrior and they would remove it from the the gym floor. The LA Times reported on it.

But racism dies hard. In 2009, eight years later, my mother was forced to contact the school district due to cyber-bullying my sister, who is nine years younger, faced while a student at Woodbridge. A group of students who were in favor of the Warrior mascot created a Facebook campaign called “Save Our Warrior Mascot" and several members of the group wanted to find out who the sophomore girl opposed to the mascot was and “teach her a lesson." (Their words.)

Last year was my 10-year high school reunion and despite making close friendships with some classmates, I decided not to attend primarily because one former classmate suggested they get together to repaint the warrior face on the exterior of the gym.

The name Redskins is offensive to many, but my beef is not just with the name. It’s with the imagery. When can we let go of our need to own Native American imagery?

*Amy Stretten is a member of the Chickahominy Tribe of Virginia.

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