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Should the Land of the Free be the Home of the Braves?
The U.S. Civil
has decided that professional sports teams
should be not calling themselves after the
"merciless Indian Savages" mentioned
(last "Fact" adduced after Paragraph Two) in
Oddly enough, the Civil
Rights Commission is worried about the feelings
of the Indians. In fact, the Indians say they
like having teams called after them, whether the
Fighting Sioux, the Seminoles, or whatever. Real
Indians are frequently seen wearing Detroit Red
Wings or Atlanta Braves gear. At Dartmouth
an early victim of this sort of thing, chiefs
of the local Indian tribes are fighting to get
the symbol back.
But what about the rest of
I have limited sympathy for
the usual Indian complaints. I mean, my
ancestors were cannibal savages on the
icefields of Northern Europe, but I don't boast
about it. I
could complain about being invaded by the
Romans, then the Danes, then the Normans. (The Battle
of Fulford being
our first real taste of immigration skepticism.)
But I don't.
The Romans captured some of
us and sold us as slaves (Non
Angli, Sed Angeli),
but am I demanding reparations from Italy? No!
But when my ancestors got
to North America, the place was practically
deserted, there were buffalo running wild and
tearing up the place, and what did we meet with?
Anti-immigrant violence -
that's what we met with!
There were attacks, crop
burnings, slave raids, scalping. (The Indians
claim that they learned the custom of scalping
from the Spanish, who, in the tradition
that made Spanish colonialism so universally
beloved, put a bounty on them, payable only on
production of a scalp. That raises two points.
The first is that the Indians might have been
better off learning the other things the Spanish
had to teach, such as twelve-string guitar,
architecture, seamanship, Spanish literature,
Toledo swordsmithing, and other practical and
useful skills. The second point is that anyone
whose country is being colonized by the Spanish
should start worrying.)
A great-uncle of mine was
hired by the government to teach the Indians how
to farm. As part of a package deal, his
was supposed to teach the Indian women how to
The Indians really
didn't want to farm, so they shot my
great-uncle. Father Fafard, a Catholic priest,
came out to give him the last rites. Father
"My poor friend, I think you have
made a good death." Then the Indians shot him.
My great-aunt was
kidnapped, or if you prefer the modern term,
taken hostage. She spent "Two
in the Camp of Big Bear"
where she was not raped - because a loyal Indian friend bought her from her captor.
Yes, 20 years after the
Emancipation Proclamation, my great-aunt was
bought and sold.
But am I complaining? Well,
I'm thinking about it. And I'm not sure if I
like the idea of professional sports teams
being named after Indians.
Professional sports teams
are not always models of sportsmanship, but the
ideal of sportsmanship embodied in the rules of
the game conflicts with the traditional Indian
"known rule of warfare" which - to quote the
Declaration again - was "an undistinguished
destruction of all ages, sexes and
(Not that Indians can't
be sportsmen, of course. The great football
player, Jim Thorpe, had problem with an opponent
who played foul, gouging and trying to bite in
the scrimmage. At a pause in the game, Thorpe
tapped him on the shoulder and said,
"Excuse me, I'm
supposed to be the savage here.")
Shouldn't descendants of
the victims of Cochise, Osceola, and Geronimo be consulted about whether
they think it's appropriate to name these
professional teams, often seen as representing
their communities, for their ancestral enemies?
I would think that many
right-thinking Americans would object to teams
called the Milwaukee Nazis, the San Francisco
Cong, the Los Angeles Rioters, the New Jersey
Why shouldn't we object to
the glorification of the quite literal savagery
of Native Americans, whose modern culture is
still not a paragon of civilization?
Environmentalists should be
enraged at the Indians' lack of respect for
the environment. (There's a town in Alberta
which commemorates the Indians'
wasteful methods of hunting. Deposits of
butchered bone and stone tools extend to a depth
of over 11 m at the base of the cliff.)
And of course the
anti-Confederate crowd should be calling for a
ban on Cherokee names, based on the Cherokee
support of the Confederacy.
So here's my suggestion:
why not name teams after notable Indian fighters?
The Colorado Cavalry,
the New York Pilgrims, the New Jersey Crooks,
Owens, (in Gary, Indiana?)
…make up your own names.
April 17, 2001