Gowanda Central High School
Class Of 1961
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GOWANDA CENTRAL SCHOOL
CLASS OF 1961
There is an issue both locally and nationally regarding the use of Native American names and images. Having been born Native American and raised on a “Reservation” (now known as a “Territory” by my people), I have my opinions on many things some people may call “P.C.”
The first third of my life was spent on the Seneca Territories of western NY; the other two-thirds I have lived among non-natives in the U.S. As a packaging and graphic designer, I have lived, worked and traveled all over the world and met people of many different nationalities and walks of life. Everyone I have met, no matter what race or nationality, has always seemed to me a person first, equally as human as every other person.
Names such as “warriors”, “chiefs”, and “Indians” were not offensive to me and most of my companions during the “third” of my life on the “Rez”. The use of images and names of ethnic peoples in both corporate and sports fields has not been a well-known matter of concern until recently. But times and I have changed. Many Native American Nations feel that the names and images depicting “Indians” as mascots or for advertising purposes are not only offensive but also deeply damaging and should be changed. Stereotyping is never appropriate.
I have come to agree with them. Many of the images and names of teams are inaccurate in addition to being insulting. Images of Western Plains Native Americans on New England teams are an indication that little thought or research was involved in logo development or overall design. Research should always be part of the process of design.
The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”, was spoken before racial or other discrimination including bullying, was addressed. Mental anguish and complexes as the result of verbal and image abuse are not acceptable. Society's acceptance and promotion of these damaging and dehumanizing objectifications must stop if we want to live in a world that accepts all human beings as that - human.
The name “Iroquois” is thought to have been given to my people by the French. It is an unflattering name – a corruption of an Algonkian (Algonquin) insult. We refer to ourselves as “Haudenosaunee” (People of the Longhouse). The name “Indian” was given to the people who Columbus first encountered because he believed he had landed in India. Native American describes who we are in the U.S.; Canadians appropriately use the term “First Nations”.
For over a thousand years, the Haudenosaunee have cultivated an advanced, democratic society that honors and welcomes all who come in peace. We have always highly honored women – Clan Mothers elected the fifty-two chiefs of the Haudenosaunee (aka Iroquois) and had the power to remove them. The Haudenosaunee are the second oldest democracy on earth (Iceland is the first). “Modern Western Society” has glass ceilings in employment, inequality in pay for women (compared to men’s) – not only not “P.C,” but also demeaning to those (women) doing the same job as a man! Perhaps something could be learned from history. Also there are still difficult relationships among races in the workplace and in society in general - again not only not “P.C,” but demeaning.
The term "political correctness" has been mocked. But this issue is not about appeasing a minority group. It is about doing the right thing for all humanity.
Luis R. Lee (Guin Yah Geyh), Co-editor, April, 2015
*POLITICAL CORRECTNESS” – Noun: The avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against. (Google definition)
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