Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hail To The Chief(s)

Call me a small-town boy who grew up thinking Indians (or, in PC language, “Native Americans”) were some of the coolest people around. We wanted to hunt and track with the skill of an Indian, be as brave as Indians, respect the land and its resources like the Indians, and we didn’t say “are you kidding me?”, we said “honest Indian?” when a friend made a statement we found hard to believe – the idea being that Indians would not tell lies.

I was born in a city and county named for Indians. Oshkosh was the name of an Indian Chief, and it is the seat of government in Winnebago County, which is named for the tribe Chief Oshkosh led. In the village where I grew up, Hortonville, the summer recreation baseball team I played for was Kluge’s Chiefs. We were allowed to pick our team names, and the local shoemaker who sponsored the team said we’d chosen a good nickname, and challenged us to play and conduct ourselves like Indian Chiefs – with honor and our best effort.

So I hope you’ll excuse me if I don’t understand what all the fuss is about, concerning “race-based” mascots. And no, even though my ancestors came from Ireland, I don’t mind that Notre Dame calls itself the “Fighting Irish”, and I’m not one bit offended by the Boston Celtics name or mascot.

The latest horrible transgression against Native Americans has apparently been righted without a fight. Yesterday there was to have been a hearing before the State Department of Public Instruction, a hearing where the Kewaunee School District would have been bullied into dropping its “Indians” nickname. There are more than 30 other school districts in the state that are under the DPI’s microscope, and will soon face the wrath of the PC police in Madison.

Most, I’m sure, will follow Kewaunee’s lead, and elect not to spend money the district doesn’t have, to hire representation to make their case that not only do the local Indians approve the nickname and mascot, they consider it an honor. They’ll need the money (they don’t have) to replace all their team uniforms and signage. How ironic that the state, which has failed so miserably to support our public schools, forces substantial costs on districts that are struggling to survive.

The issue, of course, is not money.

But those few people who believe a nickname like “Indians” is racist and that such nicknames have no place in modern society will have to do a great deal more to convince me that anyone is actually being offended here
Then again, I’m just a small-town boy.

1 comment:

  1. Leo Kluge would have jumped out of his Velveeta-colored Wolverines if he had heard such nonsense.

    What makes this manufactured flap even sillier is that the word "Chief," as applied to American Indian tribal leaders, is a White Man's invention. While every Indian society has its outstanding leaders, none of them had a word that even remotely resembled the English word chief, either in the way it was pronounced or in the context we tend to subscribe to.

    The Cheyenne probably came closest. Their leaders (there was always more than one) were referred to as vehoo'o.

    The Navaho didn't have a chief, as such, unless they were at war. They addressed him as bih-keh-he.

    The hahsenowá was the most prominent of equals among the Cayuga.

    The Klallam of the Pacific Northwest used the word si?ám? to denote a "boss" or otherwise important person. The question marks mean some pronunciation nuances to linguists. It doesn't matter how the word sounds; the world reportedly has but four remaining native speakers of the Klallam language.

    That brings us to the Ojibwe (aka Chippewa), with whom the residents of Wisconsin may be most familiar.

    Oddly enough, the Chippewa didn't actually have formal chiefs either. Instead they ruled by committee. The bureaucrats should like that.

    BTW ... The Chippewa term for the governing panel sounded something like "doodem." Perhaps that term would pass muster. After all, the football team huddles after every play, so why not?

    Perhaps all the Kewaunee folks could save some money and still comply with the PC police by slapping a sticker of a fireman's hat over that war bonnet on the football team's helmets.