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     This website was created to share some of the information presented to the Red Lodge School Board of Trustees that informed their decision to retire the Red Lodge Redskins school mascot. It is not a matter of being politically correct, but is a matter of protecting the rights, dignity, and self-esteem of young Native American students who attend the school as well as those who come in contact with Red Lodge Schools. It has been said that the Red Lodge mascot is not offensive to all Native Americans, however, it is offensive to most parents who have Native students enrolled in the Red Lodge Schools as well as the Native students themselves. Information in this website also indicates that the use of this mascot is offensive to many Native and non-Native professionals and organizations throughout the U.S, professionals who represent large groups of Native people and their well-being.

     My name is Gerald Sherman and a member of this community. I am Oglala Lakota and not a "Redskin." In the same way that it is not right to refer to Black people by the "N" word, likewise, it is not appropriate to refer to Indians as the "R" word. There are over 500 tribes throughout the U.S., and none of them are called the "R" word. It is not, nor ever has been, a word that is used to describe Native Americans in a fond, respectful, and honoring way. It is a racial slur that the majority of native parents with children in the Red Lodge Schools has been on the receiving end of. Despite good intentions, it is insulting to ask us to disregard our own personal experiences and pretend that this mascot is honorable.

     On Friday, February 4th, I emailed my network of national and regional Indian leaders comprised of educators and professionals alike. In less than two business days, we received over 20 letters. The rapid responses by busy leaders further demonstrated how vital this issue is to our collective fight for Native Rights. The Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians sent a letter addressed specifically to the Red Lodge School Board. This organization represents every tribe in the U.S. In Indian Country, this is the equivalent to receiving a letter of support from the Secretary General of the United Nations. We provided the School Board with resolutions from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the American Psychological Association, and the American Counseling Association, as well as some tribal councils, several tribal colleges, Dartmouth College, and New Mexico State University. They all mirror the same theme; that the use of Indian mascots by non-Native schools is damaging to the self-esteem of young Native people and is a practice that must be stopped. The term “Redskins” is particularly destructive because it is a racial slur. As a publically funded school, the School Board has a responsibility to not condone an institutional practice that is damaging to one ethic group.

     I have heard people say they think the name Redskins is an honor to Indian people. I do believe that when this team name was taken, it may have been meant to honor. Despite these noble intentions, the Native students attending school here and their parents never experienced honor through our mascot but in fact are filled with shame. If this community wants to honor Native Americans then it would be fitting to engage the Native Americans in the community to help find a way to do so that is appropriate. Use of Indian mascots dehumanizes Indians and makes it ok to practice racism against them. The military uses a similar tactic in times of war. When I was in Viet Nam we called the Vietnamese "Gooks" because it made it easier to kill them, to hate them, and to not see them as people. The same has been true of the “R” word in our own Native American history of genocide. Every Native in this room is most likely alive today because some brave or fortunate relative survived their equivalent of the Wounded Knee or Sand Creek Massacre. To use a name that brings back that painful history can never be an honor, again despite a real effort to make it virtuous.

     Lastly I would like to address the use of threats, intimidation and bullying. There are many people in this community who are not Indian who would like their voices heard, but they have been intimidated and so keep quiet. Threats and intimidation discourages good, caring people from having a voice here. They are afraid. But, Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” This kind of behavior has to stop because it is not teaching our young people how to resolve disputes. This especially includes all the talk on Facebook. We, as adults, need to do better, for the sake of our children.

     I also ask for kindness and support towards our administration and school board who are bravely engaging in a critical and challenging dialogue. Ask any of us natives, racism by nature, is violent. Let us be mindful and respectful in our differences and not succumb to violence in our words or actions. Young eyes and ears are upon us. We have a greater responsibility.

Pilamayapelo. Thank you.

Gerald Sherman, Oglala Lakota (Not a Redskin)

 

 

 

Copyright 2011 RetiringRedLodgeRedskins.org  All rights reserved.

"Indians are People Not Mascots" Logo used by permission of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force.

The site hosted by a group of concerned citizens. No member of the Red Lodge School system has been involved in any capacity

in this site’s content, design, or implementation.