Piestewa Peak in Arizona was renamed in honor of Lori Piestewa, a citizen of the Hopi Tribe who was killed in action during the U.S. war in Iraq. Some people continue to refer to the peak by its old name. Photo: Steven Smith

Cleve Davis: Racist and colonizing language deeply embedded in America

Racist mascots are only the beginning. Cleve Davis, a citizen of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, points out how derogatory names and symbols can be found in place names and everyday speech in America:
In light of the current and divided political climate which includes a travel ban from Muslim dominated countries and the building of the American Wall between the U.S. and Mexico, we must not forget about the ongoing domestic racism and discrimination towards Native Americans that has existed on this continent since 1492. Unlike other ethnic groups or races, the indigenous people of North America face a unique type and long-standing form of discrimination from other fellow Americans. Our discrimination originates from European colonialism, supremacy and racism which is, sadly, part of American culture and identity.

Although it is well known in Indian country that federal policy for the original inhabitants of North America included genocide, assimilation and oppression; discrimination against Native Americans continues to occur on many fronts. One place you can easily find discrimination towards Native Americans is through the everyday use of American English. For example, a racists and colonizing metaphor came recently from former Republican speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, when he commented on the Russian Meddling issue. Gingrich referred to the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s attack on our American Presidential election system as, “an Indian hunting party…out looking for a couple of scalps.” Although scalping is assumed by many Americans as a practice associated with savage Indians, the vicious practice of scalping and head removal was practiced throughout the world. It should also be noted that Europeans were known to offer bounties for indigenous scalps (red skins) in North America, as well as across Europe and other places where Europeans colonized. However, scalping is a Native American stereotype, that is obviously, perpetuated by even the influential, educated and wealthy elite of the U.S.

To provide another example from an elitist, Hillary Clinton used a colonizing metaphor during the 2016 Presidential race when she said, “I have experience with men ‘off the reservation’ like Donald Trump.” Although this phrase is part of our language, most who use the phrase probably have never even considered its origins or that it is a slur. It originates from an early American assumption that whenever Indians are off the reservation they are behaving “badly.” After all, Indians should never leave the reservation, right?

Read More on the Story:
Cleve Davis: Racists and Colonizing Metaphors (Indian Country Media Network 7/24)

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