I am a woman of mixed races. I grew up being called a squaw, half-breed, white, redskin and other names—none meant in a good way. I grew up wondering exactly where I fit in. Then I went to an all-Indian technical school. There I was defined by the kind of person I was, not by what race I was.
I now am a mother first and foremost. A mother wading through a myriad of stereotypical imagery and racism while trying to teach my son to grow up to be a good person. I take my son to pow wows, family gatherings and traditional ceremonies so he can learn where he comes from and where he can go in the future. I have relatives that are full blood as much as I have relatives that are white and relatives that are mixed race like me.
When confronted with mascots like the Washington Redskins or films that depict Native Americans in an inaccurate, stereotypical way I have to question how this will affect my child. I want him to be proud of all of who he is. I want him to respect himself, others and to respect women.
When I see the "redskins" mascot I am offended because I know that in the future when someone finds out my son is Native American he will then be greeted with the "woowoowoo war whoop" that I was. He will be asked if he's a "dot-Indian" or a "feather-Indian". He will be told "I thought you guys were extinct" and asked if he lives in a teepee. Being light skinned like me he will hear the racial slurs against indigenous people because the ones speaking won't think he is being insulted.
When I see movies depicting indigenous people as they were in the "wild west" or as a cartoon character mascot as if they aren't a real existing nation of people, I find my job as a mother even harder.
The "Washington Redskins" is viewed as a dinosaur, imagery of something extinct and a term that comes across as meaning "dead Indian". Movies are made sexualizing indigenous women and portraying Native Americans as drunks or as the stereotypical extinct "wild Indian".
I find none of this okay. I don't want my son growing up thinking it's okay just because "it's always been this way" or because "no one objected before". It's not okay to sexualize, dehumanize or degrade any human and say it's a joke. It is not okay! It's not okay to portray anyone in a stereotypical manner and it's not okay because your "Indian/part-Indian" friend says so. Just so you know, I'm part white and I say IT IS NOT OKAY!
It's not okay to say "I'm honoring you" just so you can sleep at night. IT'S NOT OKAY!
And for those you in the film industry feigning ignorance, I want you to know that doesn't work anymore. There have been more than enough Native voices speaking up to tell you. I'm sure your mother even taught you....IT'S NOT OKAY! You have Google AND cultural advisors at your disposal. I promise you that doing a little research and taking the time to listen really works.
It IS OKAY to admit that society has taught us wrong for way too long and IT IS okay to question things.
I blame the history books first for not saying Christopher Columbus just got lost and not correctly portraying the genocide of millions of Native Americans. Until there is an accurate historical representation of Native America in our school systems we will always be viewed as mascots or extinct.
Until we can have such things as accuracy in our history classes and non-stereotypical imagery that won't hurt my child...I will speak up and object. I am a mixed race woman, a full-blood mother and a human being and I will always object to stereotypical and racist imagery. IT IS NOT OKAY!