Saturday, September 8, 2012

...But I'm Honouring You!

Team Names... Logos... Mascots...
Where to begin?  There is an ongoing controversy going on in the Ottawa area regarding a local football team known as the Nepean Redskins.  Some First Nations people are urging the team to change the name as it is racist in its representation of Native peoples.  The argument against this request have ranged from it isn't racist, it isn't intended to be racist and it is intended to honour.  I don't know about you but I don't feel honoured with the name redskin.  I know in my area, we have a hockey team called the Chilliwack Chiefs that have a logo that features an Indian head with a headdress and a mascot called Chief Wannawin.

This has been bugging me for a long time but I have had no idea how to address it.  I am concerned about the fact that these are still around in the non-education setting, but I am also alarmed by the fact that there are still schools in this country, in this province that do not have a problem using team names or logos that appropriate a stereotyped image or understanding of a First Nations person or ideal.  This is not an honouring.
The usual image depicting the stereotypical Indian head with a headdress is not an appropriate image to be using in the representation of the team sports that are present in the school.  but the decision to use the image of the Indian in the headdress is one that is alarming and symbolic of a bygone ideal in Canadian society.

But no one has complained about it

This absence of contempt does not preclude the dangers that this symbol represents to those communities and to Aboriginal people in general, and our students in particular. The usual image is an image of a First Nations man that does not exist on the west coast. The headdress is an honour in many Plains Nations and not from this area. Its representation makes generalizations about the Aboriginal communities as a whole. It is also an image that firmly plants Aboriginal people in the past, ensuring that our students are not witness to representations that are contemporary and in line with their lived experience. It also allows non-Native students to create a false sense of understanding of what an Aboriginal person is.

Whether or not the intention to offend is present or not, the image is one that harms our students and their sense of identity. Whether they understand this or not is irrelevant, First Nations people have been forced to internalize harmful representations before and the ongoing misrepresentation of Aboriginal people only furthers the damage that is done to the First Nations identity and sense of self. It dehumanizes our understanding of ourselves and it harms and disrespects.

It is time to retire these harmful representations of First Nations people so that we can take the journey to reconciliation together. Our children deserve better and that starts with removing harmful misrepresentations. 
"When someone says you are hurting them by your action, if you persist- then the harm becomes intentional."- Barbara Munson
What can you do about it?
***All photos are from the Internet except for two which are from me or a friend of mine. If the photo belongs to you, please let me know so that I may properly attribute, or remove if necessary.  Thanks.

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