Plassing Things Around: Hear...say

by Richie Plass

Its great to see so many colleges and universities
dropping their mascots/logos that depict Native
Americans. Many, many people have done some hard work
and shown great dedication in getting this
accomplished. But as is the norm when change happens,
there are also behind the scene's chatter and banter
that not everyone knows about.

I am not about to reveal anything dramatic. I really
don't have anything to reveal. But I do have some
opinions from my own perspective.

One of the first things we hear as Indian people from
schools and sports teams is, "But we're honoring you."
This one has been debated for years. The next one is,
"There are more serious problems those Indian should
be worried about than our school's name." This one too
is old hat. The one I've heard lately is, "Why do you
care? You don't even live here." I could go on and on
with these. I only want to address one major point.

I have been in some discussion lately on birth
certificates of our people. Years ago, for whatever
reason, there were only two choices under the box
titled, "RACE", and those were, "White" or "Black." I
am in no position to debate this. I have seen this. I
also remember when a new selection was made, "Red."
Again, I can't change history, I can only share what I
have seen.

I was raised Menominee Indian. I usually always call
myself, "Indian." But, I also realize that many of our
people don't like that term and use, "Native
American." I can relate to that. There are some who
say we are, "First Nations." I can relate to that.
Still others say we are, "Indigenous." I can relate to
this, too. What I have a hard time with are the people
who feel the need to ask me, "You got a card?" I
usually respond by saying, "You mean a Credit Card?
Hell, I haven't had any credit since Carter was
President!" Seems like I'm the only one who finds that
funny.

Why do I need a card to prove who I am? Why do I need
a card to prove who I'm not? I wonder if the NFL goes
to Washington D.C. and asks the Redskins football
players, "Do you have a card?" Has the commissioner of
baseball traveled to Georgia and asked the members of
the Atlanta Braves, "Do you have a card?" I'm quite
certain this hasn't happened. Why, you ask? Sure I
know this is a silly question, but why is it NOT silly
for us as Native Americans, First Nations, Indian
people or Indigenous people, why is it NOT silly for
us to ask these same people to stop using our names
and silly images for their teams? I think its because
they're afraid of us.

In years past I have been involved in some pretty
crazy situations where promises were made but never
carried out because we were Indians. A perfect example
is from about ten years ago when our band won a battle
of bands here in Green Bay and the radio station
hosting the event made it clear that the winner would
get a full year's promotion and support. Well, we won,
got our picture taken and that was it. But, just two
weeks later, that same station hosted a huge event in
Green Bay, and as I was riding in my car I heard the
following announcement on the radio: "And appearing as
the opening act, fresh from our recent battle of
bands...the second place finishers...."

Wow! How cool
was that? To make a very long story short, about three
weeks later I was told of a staff meeting at that
particular station and when the planning was happening
for this event, someone said, "So we'll use 'Wolf
River' as our opening act, right?" After a short
silence, a voice said, "We'll never use that Indian
band."

There ya go! Behind closed doors many decisions and
discussions are held concerning Indian people that
haven't changed since the 1800's. "They're only
Indians." You bet we're Indians, but we're more.

We're teachers, lawyers, CEO's, Police Officers,
Firemen, members of the Armed Forces, Chefs, Business
Owners, newspaper Editors, entertainers, members of
Congress. And that's just a very short list. I wonder
how many Leprechauns hold these positions? I wonder
how many Giants hold these positions? I wonder why
Washington's NBA team seen the need to drop the name,
"BULLETS"? Not many "Bullets" chairing Board meetings
is my guess.

Just to let you know... I've got a card. If you feel
the need to see it, stop by my house, I'll be glad to
show you. Better yet, why not just take my word for
it. Wouldn't that be a novel approach... believing an
Indian! Or, better than that.... drop ALL those silly
names and images and I'll stop writing these silly
stories. If you choose not to drop your name, then
drop by my house and prove to me how and why I should
feel, "Honored" by them. Until that happens, try
listening to us.

In case anyone has forgotten, we are REAL people. We
were here before those little boats landed on the
eastern coast of Turtle Island. We live and breathe
just like all other human beings. Why not treat us as
such?

I still thing you're scared!

Richie Plass
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