"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Redskins–Change The Name to The White Wolves

The nickname of an American prep school a number of years back was ‘The Pelicans’.  Few students liked the name, especially because the school competed against teams named the Lions, Tigers, Bears, Panthers, and Wolves.  The pelican, said school administrators, had been a proud symbol of the school ever since its founding in 1874.  Although under constant pressure from the student body to change its image to something more aggressive and fearsome, the school held fast.  The pelican, they said, was an early Christian symbol of selflessness and sacrifice, and that was good enough for them. 

According to legend the mother pelican would feed her chicks from the blood of her own breast in times of scarcity.

Sacrifice was the principle the school had always espoused and was proud to convey its conviction through the symbol of the noble pelican.

The students from the opposing teams, however, flapped and hopped around the bleachers every football game, dressed in over-sized pelican suits, and squawked in unison every time the team lost the ball.  “All in good fun”, said the Headmaster of one rival school when the Pelicans' aged principal complained; but the issue did not stop there.  The principal responded angrily:
We are proud of the pelican which symbolizes the Passion of Christ and the Eucharist.  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote the hymn "Humbly We Adore Thee", where he describes Christ as the "loving divine pelican, able to provide nourishment from his breast".  You may remember that Elizabeth I of England adopted the symbol, portraying herself as the "mother of the Church of England".
Yet, there was nothing the principal could do. He wrote letter after letter, met personally with the heads of competitor schools, and even enlisted the support of the local Archbishop who wrote a pastoral letter praising the pelican and explaining its symbolism and place in Christian history.  All to no avail.  The flapping and squawking continued.

There is a growing movement to force the owner of the Washington Redskins to change the name of his team.  The term ‘redskin’, critics say, is as demeaning to Native Americans as the N-word is to African Americans.  It is blatantly racist, especially so in an era of social enlightenment, inclusivity, and diversity.  Of course, PC interest groups often tend to distort the facts, and the case of the Redskins is no different.  The origin of the word came from native Americans themselves, as David Skinner of Slate (12.13) recounts:
In 2005, the Indian language scholar Ives Goddard of the Smithsonian Institution published a remarkable and consequential study of redskin's early history. His findings shifted the dates for the word's first appearance in print by more than a century and shed an awkward light on the contemporary debate. Goddard found, in summary, that "the actual origin of the word is entirely benign."
Redskin, he learned, had not emerged first in English or any European language. The English term, in fact, derived from Native American phrases involving the color red in combination with terms for flesh, skin, and man. These phrases were part of a racial vocabulary that Indians often used to designate themselves in opposition to others whom they (like the Europeans) called black, white, and so on.
The use of ‘redskin’, then, should be no more offensive than ‘black’; and combined with the heroic image of the team – a noble Indian – there should never have been any furor in the first place.

Nevertheless, the owner of the Redskins is under considerable liberal pressure to get rid of the name; but until now he has refused.  He has invoked academic references similar to those cited above, has gone out of his way to display public respect and honor for the heroic Native American, and has set up a foundation to help poor Indians on reservations; but the drumbeat for name change is louder and more insistent than ever.

More than likely Daniel Snyder will change the name of the Redskins but keep the symbol.  Image is more important that text these days, and fans will soon forget ‘Redskins’ if an Indian name which evokes bravery, courage, and strength replaces it.  An excellent choice would be the Washington White Wolves.  Jonathan Foreman, writing in The Daily Mail (12.8.13), says:
S C Gwynne, author of Empire Of The Summer Moon about the rise and fall of the Comanche, says simply: ‘No tribe in the history of the Spanish, French, Mexican, Texan, and American occupations of this land had ever caused so much havoc and death. None was even a close second.’
He refers to the ‘demonic immorality’ of Comanche attacks on white settlers, the way in which torture, killings and gang-rapes were routine. ‘The logic of Comanche raids was straightforward,’ he explains.
‘All the men were killed, and any men who were captured alive were tortured; the captive women were gang raped. Babies were invariably killed.’
‘One by one, the children and young women were pegged out naked beside the camp fire,’ according to a contemporary account. ‘They were skinned, sliced, and horribly mutilated, and finally burned alive by vengeful women determined to wring the last shriek and convulsion from their agonised bodies. Matilda Lockhart’s six-year-old sister was among these unfortunates who died screaming under the high plains moon.’
Not only were the Comanche specialists in torture, they were also the most ferocious and successful warriors — indeed, they become known as ‘Lords of the Plains’. They were as imperialist and genocidal as the white settlers who eventually vanquished them.
When they first migrated to the great plains of the American South in the late 18th century from the Rocky Mountains, not only did they achieve dominance over the tribes there, they almost exterminated the Apaches, among the greatest horse warriors in the world.
 The Comanches were in every way equal to the white soldiers who tried to eradicate them.  They were as stalwart, determined, and brutal as the Long Knives.  They were a valiant and noble enemy.
Of course they killed many white people; and as Smithsonian scholar Ives reports, they were far bloodier than their ‘civilized’ oppressors.  The Comanches knew – just like the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram know – that savage brutality is a weapon of war, meant to frighten, intimidate, and terrorize.  So if Daniel Snyder, owner of the Redskins, wants to raise White Wolf to preeminence and a position of honor and respect, he will have to recognize the Chief’s bloody credentials.

There are many tribes that rival the Comanches for savagery – the Cheyenne, Apaches, and Blackfeet to name just a few.  The Apaches were especially known for their raids on white settlements from which they abducted women and enslaved children.

The Apaches would also be a good choice.

There is a tendency to whitewash history when it suits politically correct causes.  The barbarism of many Native American tribes is swept under the rug nowadays, and the Indian is portrayed as an innocent victim of white imperialism.  The Indian was at one with nature, PC advocates avow.  He never killed more than he could eat, sowed and reaped according to his need, and lived in communal harmony.  These same hagiographers conveniently forget that Indian tribes not only killed white people but each other.  The Comanches were nearly successful in wiping out the Apaches in battles which must have been epic in their savagery.

So, we come back to the story lowly pelican. There were peaceful Indian tribes like the Hopi who as early as 700 AD evolved into a sedentary, agricultural and largely peaceful society.  Only when they were forced to fight the invading Spanish in the 16th century did they take up arms.

Hopi House in Arizona.

The Redskins could be named the Hopi, celebrating what many consider to be the more honorable characteristics of cooperation, harmony, and social integration.  However, Redskins fans are unlikely to like the name and its connotations.  After all, what goes on in NFL stadiums on Sunday afternoons is much more like the blood sports of the Roman Coliseum than sowing blue corn in the Southwest.

It is time to put aside all thoughts and images of Indian savagery and barbarism, and rehabilitate the Native American, transforming him into The Noble Warrior, an incarnation of Rousseau’s Noble Savage.  If thought of in the abstract – heroism, courage, honor – the Indian could very well still be the image for our Washington team; and White Wolf is the best incarnation of these values.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.