Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Condition. Discussion »
The most historic instance happened in December 1773 when a bunch of non-Indian colonists camouflaged themselves as Indians specifically Mohawks and went on board some ships in Boston Harbor and began dumping large bags of tea into the harbor. It was a protest against
taxation without representation against British rule. The act of defiance became known as the Boston Tea Party.
US Capital Building, Boston Tea Party Mural
playing Indian part of this pre-American Revolution act has always bothered me. So much so, a few years ago, a friend of mine told me about a Tea Party function in my hometown near my office and asked me to go along with him. I told him the idea of tea parties scares me: I wasn't in the mood to find out if there would be non-Indians
playing Indian again.
Playing Indian is one reason I adamantly oppose Indian mascots and usage of any caricatures depicting Indians in sports. I find the practice of using American Indian mascots in sports inherently racist.
Then yesterday, out of Boston, comes a videotape shot last weekend: A group of Senator Scott Brown's senatorial staff and reelection campaign aides
playing Indian. Here were a group of non-Indians captured on videotape making
Indian war whoops and making
tomahawk chop gestures, apparently to highlight their perceived notion Brown's Democratic challenger, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, is a fake and not credible to be a United States senator.
In the midst of the crowd playing Indian was Greg Casey, Brown's deputy chief of staff getting caught up in the excitement of politics performing a racist act and being a racist, along with his racist cohorts. Perhaps, it was the silly smug smiles on their non-Indian faces that I found to be most offensive and appalling. The smiles were as bad as the silly smile on the caricature used by the Cleveland baseball team.
When confronted about the antics of his staff captured on videotape, Senator Brown wanted to transfer any responsibility over to his opponent, Elizabeth Warren. He said she is the one who should be apologizing for checking the box as being Native American.
In the case of whether or not Elizabeth Warren is an Indian, the Brown campaign wants to make an issue out of a non-issue. Here's why: Throughout Indian country there are differing opinions of how one defines their Indian identity. The opinions differ from tribe to tribe. Tribes through their constitutions and laws determine their own tribal membership in what can at times be complicated ways.
Therefore, the Native News Network does not take a stand on whether or not Ms. Warren is a Cherokee or a Delaware, as she claims to be.
Furthermore, I personally know a lot of American Indians who cannot document they are who the whole American Indian community in their locale knows they are American Indians. Often, this is a very painful experience for them because they are denied proper inclusion into their tribe. Generally, it is better not to keep harping on the issue, as Senator Brown and his staff want to do with Ms. Warren.
That being said, it is bothersome to many American Indians that Elizabeth Warren's campaign chooses not to respond to American Indian media outlets for interviews on this issue.
However, the most disgraceful act goes way beyond whether or not Warren can document who she says she is. It is Senator Brown's flippant response to the videotape that is most disgraceful to American Indians across Indian country.
While the state of Massachusetts has only about one-half percent of those who are American Indian living there, once in the Senate, a senator must vote on legislation that impacts all Indian country.
By ignoring this videotape issue, Brown displays a disregard for all of Indian country and shows he is not qualified to be a US senator. To borrow from his own words: It is about character. To show he is serious about this offense, he should fire and demand the resignations of all his staff who thought it cute to
photo credit Architect of the Capital;
posted September 26, 2012 6:00 am edt