The University Record, February 15, 1999
Charlene Teters is guilty of a breach of Native American etiquette (Record 1/25/99). As a self-appointed activist on Native American issues, she presumes to speak for all Native Americans when she asks for support to erase Native American images from sports. Whatever her motives, she has only the authority of an individual to speak her mind. Each Native American tribe has sovereignty over its own affairs. And only the chief of each tribe speaks for his/her people. Has the Spokane Indian chief appointed her as official spokesperson for the Spokanes?
Teters would do well to do some homework. The Seminoles want to remain affiliated with Florida State University and the Utes with the University of Utah. The Chippewas want to be partners with Central Michigan University. The Hurons are standing firm in their desire to be restored as namesakes of Eastern Michigan University. These are specific tribes who should not be confused with generic names or symbols.
As for atrocities during the North American territorial wars of the 19th century, romanticism should be tempered through the cold facts of historical record. The tribes never did unite as one fighting nation and were brutally subdued battle by battle, for individual tribal territory. But Indian hands were as bloody as those of their conquerors in defending their way of life.
Sadly, the Indian nations are still divided into distinct tribal entities, and their numbers are dwindling. Perhaps that is one of the reasons some specific tribes ask to be remembered in association with universities. As one of the Huron chiefs said, We are afraid that one day people will forget that we ever lived here.
As for the offensive generic names and mascots, Teters is preaching to the choir by going from campus to campus to inveigh against Chief Wahoo or the Redskins. She needs to unite the Indian nations to confer with pro-corporate promoters and advertisers. It will take a united effort to sway corporate dollars. By trying to erase all Indian associations from our contemporary culture, Teters promotes a tyrannical political correctness that would eventually render the Indian nations invisible.
Lois D. Simmons