We don't want to change the practice of using Indian mascots only because we disagree semantically with ''Sioux'' or ''Redskin.'' More importantly, we want change because our essence is under attack.
This issue is about our own self-respect. Since we lost control of our spiritual self-determination, it has been difficult for our children to learn that their sense of self-worth comes from our living religion, our ways of life and knowing. The most devastating aspect of Indians as mascots is the objectification of our race.
A transformation occurred when the collective Euro-American consciousness began to dictate what made up the essence of an American Indian. This transformation makes the existence of mascots possible. Similarly, the practice of using Indians as mascots is evidence of that transformation, also called ''objectification.''
Objectification goes back to the days of the pre-Columbus papal bulls, claiming non-Christians had no rights of their own, and post-contact dime novels and stories about the white experience in indigenous country. Stories were widespread of ''the savage red men just beyond the frontier.'' The very fact that a group of folks attempted to define us demonstrates that our identity was under attack from a forceful objectification that would supplant all conceptions, even our own, of Native identity.
No longer are we living our identity. We are looking at it through a lens created by the Europeans, a lens in which Indians are inferior and whites are superior. We are looking through a lens created and evidenced by the use of Indians as mascots. Inevitably, we judge our own Nativeness based on the whole of our life experiences and learning. Creating a mascot based on a race of people makes it easier for Indians and non-Indians to perceive that object group of people (Indians) as something different than the group creating the mascot (humans). This process is dehumanization. There is a subtle shift in thinking that takes place when we are used as mascots.
The Indian mascot dilemma is so dangerous because it is doing significant damage while a large portion of us are unaware of it. Because the objectification of Indians is so widespread, we unwittingly buy into the idea that Indian mascots are harmless. In reality, objectification is damaging the way we see ourselves and the way the world sees us.
By not allowing our essence to be misappropriated, we are promoting proper spiritual, mental and emotional health for our wicoicage, our future generations. This debate will remain so long as Natives with informed senses of identity survive into the new millennium.
- Chase Iron Eyes
Standing Rock SiouxRapid City, S.D.