Nathan Phillips was taking an afternoon stroll Saturday, April 11, in Ypsilanti, Mich., in an area near a university, when he happened upon a loud party of college-age kids.
Some of the partiers noticed Phillips and waved him over. So Phillips walked over to them and saw quite a few in the crowd of about 30 to 40 painted up as "redface" and some even wore feathered headdresses and other outlandish garb.
Phillips asked the students what they were doing and they informed him that they were honoring American Indians.
"We're the F-ing Hurons!" one of the revelers said.
"This isn't honoring us, this is racist," Phillips told the crowd. And as soon as he said 'racist,' it turned from honoring the Indians to, 'Go back to the reservation, you F-ing Indian, get the F- out of here.'"
Phillips, who has been identified as an American Indian elder, even had beer thrown on him by one of the angry partiers, according to reports, which also add that the administration of Eastern Michigan University, where many in the crowd attend school, is investigating this incident.
Before the university changed its mascot to Swoop, an Eagle, in the '90s, EMU's nickname used to be the Hurons, another name for the Wyandot Indian Tribe. This long-standing mascot- and name-tagging has desensitized most people so much so that they see nothing wrong with a team with an Indian team name - not only in Ypsilanti, but nationwide and in Canada, as well. And many don't see anything wrong with wearing a headdress and having red paint all over one's face at a keg party. Or by attending a game dressed up in such costumes.
Nathan Phillips' unfortunate encounter with the college party is the main reason Indian sports names and mascots need to be retired and banned for good. I don't think the EMU students are diabolical and dangerous racial bigots or supremacists - the kind of sinister racists filled with hatred and violence that are all too prevalent in our turbulent world today. No, these kids are mere victims of something that's gone on for far too long - the proliferation of team names and mascots borrowed from the heritage and culture of a race that has been persecuted, maligned, and even slaughtered in genocidal proportions for centuries. It's okay to dress and act this way, those in this dominant culture believe, because all their young lives they've been around it. It's accepted and celebrated. After all, their parents were most likely 'Hurons', and not sports fans of a bird of prey.
Unfortunately and ironically, most of this so-called "honoring" is being done by descendants of the very race that stole Indian land, persecuted First Nations peoples, and even moved them onto reservations. And these days, whenever there's anything to be mined, sucked-out, or consumed on these reservations, this 'persecuting race' has no problem fracking, drilling, mining and pipelining all over this set-aside "Indian land".
Another writer sees much wrong with the EMU partiers' choice of party dress and their reaction to being told they were committing racism. "Incidents such as this reiterate the detrimental effects of Native-themed mascots, and this particular instance shows how quickly those who claim to celebrate Native mascots will physically attack actual Native people in defense of their use of Native imagery," writes Michelle Lietz in Native News Online.Net.
"Any sanction of these mascots and representations from the university fosters a mass acceptance and validation of these humiliating and harmful practices. Having the Huron mascot anywhere on campus leaves an opening for the acceptance of all harmful images of Natives, from the picture in McKenny of young girls dressing up in fake headdresses, to the new mural to hang in Porter, with the empty canoes of an extinct people floating down the river," Lietz writes.
Marjorie Villafane of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe told Indian Country Today Media Network on Friday, April 10, at Progressive Field in Cleveland before the Cleveland Indians played their home opener against the Detroit Tigers, "We have experienced a lot of racial prejudice here. it wears you down. We were taught not to rock the boat, so I didn't say anything, but it made me mad."
About 150 protesters greeted Cleveland Indian fans on the sidewalks around Progressive Field for the game. Wearing their jackets, sweat shirts and tee-shirts emblazoned with the Chief Wahoo mascot, some of the Cleveland Indian fans yelled at the protesters. Some even jeered, "Go back to the reservation," according to reports.
In the video accompanying the ICTMN article, Cleveland City Councilman (2nd ward) Zach Reed, holding a megaphone, says, "We got rid of the Little Black Sambo because it was wrong and we have to get rid of Chief Wahoo because it is wrong."
Another protester, Ian Washburn, said Indian team names and mascots need to go, primarily what he refers to as "the big five" - the Washington R$d$k$ns, the Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians.