Happy Columbus Day! Or, if you live in a forward-thinking U.S. city like Minneapolis or Portland: Happy Indigenous Peoples Day
Chances are you probably live in Cleveland, which means you live in a city that has long been behind the eight ball when it comes to respecting the dignity
of Native Americans. It should come as no surprise then, that though a couple city council members raised their voices in protest against Chief Wahoo last year, no one did so again this year, once the media clamor had died down.
City leaders have a lot on their plates these days, but no legislation is currently in the works to honor Native peoples on Columbus Day, either.
The Cleveland Indians baseball franchise, for its part, has done jack squat for local Native Americans. That's in contrast to sports owners like Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington NFL franchise, who has traveled across the country to learn about life on Indian reservations and formed a charitable organization, the "Original Americans Foundation
" to donate money and goods to destitute tribes.
Some tribal leaders have come under fire
for accepting gifts from Snyder, because the gifts' acceptance was theoretically contingent upon supporting the NFL team's name, or at least not actively opposing it. And it's not like charity for Indian nations excuses
the mascot anyway, but it's a step in the right direction.
Indian leaders in Cleveland have proposed various projects with the city's baseball team. An Indian museum, for example. They've also, on many occasions, asked for financial contributions for educational programs and special events, all of which the ownership has ignored.
The Washington NFL team's name, of course, is the "Redskins." It's a "disparaging and offensive
," "contemptuous" term used to refer to a North American Indian. It's come up in the news again in recent weeks because Republican candidates Jeb Bush and Donald Trump have weighed in on the issue: Don't worry, both feel
that the Washington team shouldn't change its name.
On one hand, Bush and Trump have said, they know Indians personally who take great pride in the name. On the other, changing a team's name should be the owner's prerogative — original racist ownership notwithstanding
— and opponents who would call the name racist are merely being "politically correct." That's one of maybe three ways Trump characterizes anything with which he disagrees.
But on the opposing side, in California Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown approved a measure
which will bar public schools from using "Redskins" as a team name or mascot. It becomes the first state in America to do so.
In Ohio, we've got a lot of catching up to do.
Here are the high schools in the state, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association
, which still use "Redskins" as a team mascot and would face the immediate task of rebranding if Ohio were to pass a similar law. Check out the websites to get a glimpse of the imagery used. Most are stereotypical images of Native Americans with elaborate feathered headdresses. Some use arrowheads. Others stick to text.
Geauga County's Ledgemont High School, which closed this year due to financial issues and had its territory transferred to Berkshire High School (the "Badgers") was also called the Redskins.
Parma High School's mascot, the "Redmen," isn't technically the same name but would probably be included in any Ohio legislation which targeted native mascotry, along with the four other Ohio schools which use "Redmen" as a team name.
It's also worth noting that 24 High Schools use "Indians" as a mascot — one of the top five mascots in the state — and eight schools call themselves the "Braves." Ohio, in fact, is behind only Indiana and South Dakota for the percentage of high schools which use Native American mascots, even though Native Americans (with the notable exception of South Dakota, home to the Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian Reservations, among others) are largely concentrated elsewhere. (Map below from fivethirtyeight.com