I should get paid for how much grief Dan Snyder has caused me. Natives are on everything from butter to sports memorabilia, from Jeep Cherokees to motorcycles, and from tobacco to jerky. We are everywhere and not seeing enough of the jerky. It's bad enough Snyder is paying “homage” to us, but why couldn't he have re-named the Redskins the Custer Killers?
The idea that we're marketable is laughable, but valid when I see the stoic image of a chief in a headdress. I mean who was the first guy to say, “Hey, these people would look really good on a leather starter jacket.” It's your team, but do you really want to claim them? You suck, first of all. You have a history of signing decent players only to have them routinely fail you. You ruined Robert Griffin III. Your team was one of the last to incorporate Black players. Snyder has been quoted, by John Barr at ESPN, as saying, “... I'd like them to understand, as I think most do, that the name really means honor …” Let's consider the word “Honor.” It means high regard and respect. It means it would be a privilege to share our image, to be in our presence, and I guess you are privileged when I consider the white privilege it must take to get away with such ignorance. I'd appreciate Snyder's smug, pudgy face on my hair dryer because it would really honor his hot air.
Sometimes I do get excited to see butter, but I rarely kneel down and pray to it like the Land O'Lakes lady. It's bad enough I have to see the romantic imagery of an Indian woman kneeling every time I'm near the butter aisle, but I get to see Indian representation in the parking lots every time a frat guy or outdoors enthusiast parks his Jeep Cherokee next to me. First off, Jeeps haven't been relevant since R. Kelly sang in his opus, “You remind me of my jeep.” Secondly, no Indian wants to be in a vehicle that doesn't protect her hair. I abhor cargo shorts, and the vehicles their owners ride in.
Maybe if we could confiscate these items with our imagery, as needed, it wouldn't be so bad. We should be sleeping in beds of beef jerky and adorning our floors with mascot pelts. I don't know how to ride a motorcycle, but I would definitely be able to use one for a photo op, or even just to try stunt driving on. I've always wanted to drive something and abandon it right before it plummets off a cliff. I want my reparations, Indian Motorcycle. I bet Snyder wouldn't even let me try out for the Redskins, but I've seen Rudy three times, and I know a lot about letting down my fans, thanks to Seabird co-ed softball.
The sad thing is that Indian mascots for products or teams turns Indians into a commodity, an item to be bought and sold. How ironic is it that the production of Land O'Lakes is part of the dairy industry destroying our environment, all while using us as a symbol. I don't want to be anyone's mascot, but it's put upon me every time someone wants to debate the topic of a Redskin's name-change.
I'm a walking symbol of injustice and colonization, no matter what I try to project as an autonomous, intelligent Native woman. I am your mascot, and I denounce your name every time it's mentioned. The symbol you use is more than a cliché; it is the very image that will ruin you. There's only a margin of people who still think your name is valid, and someday their descendants will fall off cliffs or acquiesce to the coming of a new era where Redskin isn't a symbol of anything but ignorance. I'm going to make a headdress with the poms of your cheerleaders, and I'm coming for my memorabilia, my Jeep and my jerky.
Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island, a place bound by the Mariah Slough and the Fraser River. She studies at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her work, “Heart Berries,” can be found in Carve magazine, and her story, “House Party,” is forthcoming in Yellow Medicine Review.