Thanks for the severed head, you’ve proved my point.

June 5, 2010 — 23 Comments

Game 4. Philly Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers score a goal, and VERSUS tv shows this guy. This guy, holding an impaled, severed, Indian head. On national tv. Close up on his prop:

So disturbing, so graphic, and just what I wanted to wake up to on a Saturday morning. Truly sickening in the literal sense.

This proves it, without a doubt. Native American mascots are demeaning, stereotyping, and harmful to Native people. The Blackhawks logo is often touted as a “good” image–not evil or stupid looking, nothing like chief wahoo or the other blatantly racist images. But “good” image or not (and I still stand that no Indian mascot is a good mascot), clearly this demonstrates the danger when fans are given control over a mascot and image. There is no excuse for this man’s actions.

That’s one area mascot debates rarely cover–the actions of rival team’s fans and how they affect Native people. When an entire arena is shouting things like “Beat the Indians!” “Scalp the Redskins!” “F*@! the Blackhawks!” Can you imagine how it would feel to be a Native person hearing those things?

Even more upsetting about this image is the American history behind beheadings and scalpings of American Indians at the hands of whites. Into the late 1800′s, the california government offered bounties of 5 dollars per Indian head brought into city hall. The heads of great Indian leaders were kept as souvenirs by the US military, or strung up in trees or on posts to serve as a warning to other Indians who dare disobey. Scalping, a practice commonly associated with blood-thirsty Indians, was actually more widely used by the European settlers, and bounties were offered for Indian scalps as well. This proclamation from 1775 calls for scalps from Native men, women, and children–offering different rewards for each.

That’s why this makes me even more sick to my stomach.

We could also talk about how the TV station decided it was ok to air the image of this man, multiple times, or how the security at the arena let him through with that spear, and what those actions say about our society, or, per usual, draw the comparisons to other groups. Would a tv station air an image of a man carrying around an impaled Black head? Asian? Latino? No.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about the Chicago Blackhawks, I’m assuming because of all the publicity with the Stanly Cup. A couple of people sent over this image:

Apparently the Chicago Tribune puts feathers on the homepage every time the team has a game. The feathers are pulled from the Blackhawks logo itself:

There have also been a few editorials circulating about the logo, and if it’s time for a change. This one, from the Star, is pretty spot on. I talked a little bit about the danger of mascots and the psychological implications for Native students in this post about Tommy Tomahawk at Stilwell HS in OK. I recommend a read of Stephanie Fryburg’s work I link to in that post.

And of course, the offensive and hurtful behavior isn’t just limited to the fans of the other team. Check these guys out:

 (image source)

I guess even die-hard hockey fans can fall under the anti-hipster headdress manifesto.

So, overall, I guess I can–in a twisted and sick way–thank that Flyers fan. Anytime anyone says there is no harm in Indian mascots, I’m sending them that picture.

Offensive Logo has got to go: http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/815709–cox-offensive-blackhawks-logo-has-got-to-go

Flyers Fan celebrates with Impaled Head: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Flyers-fan-celebrates-goal-with-impaled-Indian-h?urn=nhl,245889

Original pictures of the fan are from The Starter Wife: http://blackandgoldtchotchkes.com/

Earlier:

Meet Stilwell HS’s new Mascot: Tommy Tomahawk- http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/stilwell-high-schools-new-mascot.html

Tommy Tomahawk Update: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/tommy-tomahawk-update-school-board.html

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14328347379621837240 Anishinaabekwe

    Horrible, sad and extremely disgusting! Mascots are a continued assault on annihilation and racism of Native peoples of Turtle Island.

    I told an “activist” that our liberation is bound up together. On the contrary, she wanted to continue and proudly wear a Chicago blackhawks baseball cap to be comfortable in her family setting that is generally more conservative and “american.” I told her that mascots are racist, plain and simple. I also told her that I am not a mascot as a Native woman

    I really like this shirt from DEMOCKRATEES -http://www.demockratees.com/retireindianmascots.html

    But I think we need a shirt made that says, “I am not a mascot.” Any Native artist interested in making something like this?

  • http://openid.aol.com/t3hk0r34n Shawn

    Whats wrong with Indian logos, except Redskins, which I understand why its offensive? If we really thought Indians were no good inferior animals we would use them as sports mascots? Indians are used because they were noble, brave,and generally a positive group of people. It shouldnt be considered degrading.

    We have presidents mascots racing in Nationals game. I guess we are desecreating the presidents too.

  • http://diceytillerman.livejournal.com/ diceytillerman

    @Shawn:

    To learn what’s wrong with the mascots, read the posts here and the links provided.

    Indians are used because they were noble, brave, and generally a positive group of people.

    No group of people is all noble — you’re dehumanizing Indians by romanticizing them. And when you say they “were” those qualities, you sound as if they’re dead and gone. They’re not dead and gone — they’ll alive and living in the present.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen

    With all the thinking I’ve done on this topic, I never thought about how fans of other teams use Indian mascots.

    Just gives me one more reason to not like them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11962230588950968738 TheDeviantE

    Ummm, shawn? Many other mascots for teams *are* animals. In addition to being willfully ignorant/racist, you also have some pretty terrible logic skills.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16107564833265583418 Lady Instructor

    My god. But thanks, I guess, for giving me the perfect image to show to my students when they give me the same old story about mascots being about nobility, etc (see handy post by Shawn above).

    My husband’s #1 Most Hated Team is the Flyers, but I told him that I just can’t root for the Blackhawks because of their name and logo. This gives me an even bigger excuse to hate the Flyers! (Go Penguins! No Native Americans oppressed in the making of this mascot!)

  • http://openid.aol.com/t3hk0r34n Shawn

    diceytillerman-But we, the humans, have been romanticizing everyone all the time. Not just Indians. The Fighting Irish, the Cowboys, the presidents at the Nationals games, etc…Not just Indians. Indians just happens to be the most popular topic to romanticize.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11962230588950968738 TheDeviantE

    So shawn, I guess when you say “we, the humans” you’re expecting us to just assume that what you mean is “we, the *white* humans”? Because I bet dollars to cents that Native Americans/First Nations individuals don’t romanticize “Indians” all that much.
    They probably have siblings and parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and children who they all recognize as complex humans, with a variety of emotions and states. And they probably (once in a while) get pissed at their siblings or parents or children or cousins or aunts and uncles and thus understand that Native people aren’t all “noble”.

    But I suppose this point is lost on you, being the type who says “human” and forgets that that includes Native “humans”.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

    You sound pretty naive, Shawn. For starters, you’ve confused an ethnic group, Indians, with occupations such as cowboys and presidents. Also, the Fighting Irish is a special case, as I explained here:

    http://www.bluecorncomics.com/irish.htm

    Clearly you can’t handle some of the obvious objections to Indian mascots. For instance, why should Indians accept being stereotyped as primitive people of the past? How is it an honor for 560-plus tribes as different as Greeks and Swedes to be lumped together into one stereotype?

    Why don’t you “honor” other ethnic groups too? For instance, dress up in blackface with grass skirts and bones through your noses? Because that’s a similar stereotype from the same era–the mid-19th century.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

    Great posting as usual, Adrienne. For a few additional thoughts, see:

    http://newspaperrock.bluecorncomics.com/2010/06/blackhawks-foe-waves-severed-head.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01478763837213733775 Rob

    Yeah, Indians are so “brave” and “noble” they fall into the same category as lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Not to mention pirates, raiders, and buccaneers. In other words, creatures defined by their ability to attack and kill…predators…savages.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16263153498258591852 Captain

    @ Rob – i really like the points you bring up in the BCC posting you reference [Fighting Sioux vs. Fighting Irish]. however, although i know it’s not the time or place, i would take exception to a lot of the points you make re: the Irish, although this certainly is not meant to discredit the argument you’re making, which i think i essentially valid. but just by way of constructive editing: 1) the Irish have had plenty of treaty’s broken [still, prob not as many as First Nations]; 2) government policies played an instrumental and devastating impact on the Great Famine… [this is fairly well accepted by historians at this point]; 3) there still is a pretty well accepted stereotype that the Irish are short-tempered and quick to fight, and [yes] drunk; 4) “Scotch” actually is an adjective used to describe things Scottish [as in "Scotch Whiskey"]; 5) given that the colonial/invasive powers that be were largely Anglo, the immigrant Irish stereotypes were largely just transplanted from older English discourse [which is to say that they have a much longer history than you give them credit for. i’m not trying to be harsh, or to attack your position, because i essentially agree with it. just thought i should say something about those little bits where you make statements that aren’t actually 100% accurate. your point is well taken, though. the Irish in occupied Northern Ireland might be a better analogue than the immigrant community here.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07336619340892592433 teeveejournal

    This is seriously disgusting. Thanks for writing about this.

  • http://lisafindley.wordpress.com/ lisafindley

    I’m listening to the victory parade going on outside right now, and hey, three cheers for the Blackhawks as a sports team. But good grief is it time for a new mascot. Thanks for this post, Adrienne! I linked to it on my blog here: http://lisafindley.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/go-blackhawks-now-change-that-mascot/ (Not trying to steal traffic or whatever, but I don’t know how pingbacks work between WordPress and Blogspot blogs and wanted you to see when you’d been linked.)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05469677878011824121 Beric

    You’re being CRAZY sensitive. The Red Wings have an octopus mascot, and when they played the Sharks, a Sharks fan threw a shark on the ice with an octopus sewed up into its mouth. It’s nothing personal against any group of people or against any type of animal, it’s a goddamn sporting event where people are hoping the team they don’t like loses.

    Babies.

  • http://mwillia9.livejournal.com/ mwillia9

    Beric, if you can’t discern the difference in impact on real people between an effigy of a severed human head and an animal, I don’t think it’s even worth fighting with you. Quite apart from that, I do think it’s disgusting to waste animals’ lives for such stunts.

    To address the issue of how opposing teams’ fans exploit Native mascots in ways that are not at all “respectful”, I recall reading in this book about one time not too long ago when UIUC played University of Iowa on the latter’s campus. All along the frat row in Iowa City were Native effigies lynched from the trees (because, as I’m sure most of you know, UIUC’s team is the Fighting Illini and their mascot at the time was Chief Illiniwek). Native students at Iowa were made to feel very unsafe on their own campus because of this, to the extent that some of them sought help from the counseling center.

    And Chief Illiniwek was one of those mascots that fans insisted was totally respectful, “honoring” the Illini who were pushed out of Illinois long ago.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05469677878011824121 Beric

    I never would have guessed that someone who cries about pictures would be the same sort of person who would be “disgusted” that a shark and an octopus died. You go to a store and buy a shark and an octopus, whether you eat it or throw it on the ice I don’t think the animals are going to complain, and I find your judgment of that person’s lifestyle and behavior to be intolerant and offensive. I mean come on, seriously. Man up.

    This is exactly the same as Muslims going nuts that someone drew a picture of Muhammad, although to your credit, admittedly far less violent and a million times more pathetic in its childishness. Seriously, all I can think of when I read stuff like this is “OH MY GOD WHO CARES.” Some people just love to look for things to get offended about and it’s a depressing commentary that anyone who disagrees with coddling any group of people is branded a racist.

    I remember a few years ago there was some big fuss and people were like “HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF WE MADE A FIGHTIN’ WHITIES JERSEY” and as it turns out, I have a few of those because they’re funny.

    Say I owned a hockey team and I wanted to make it the Vandals. Should I consult the descendants of Vandal barbarian clans and make sure it’s ok, and make sure that my extremely generic, extremely innocuous logo is inoffensive? Is the use of barbarian in that context ok?

    It’s 2010. There’s plenty to complain about without getting all weepy about shit that happened hundreds of years ago. Complain about kids starving around the world, about genocide happening TODAY, about AIDS epidemics, about corrupt violent regimes holding entire regions in essentially slavery. Find SOMETHING to complain about other than someone drew a picture you don’t like. Seriously, goddamn.

  • http://mwillia9.livejournal.com/ mwillia9

    Like I said, not worth fighting with. But I just have to wonder why you’re even reading this blog? Like, how did you get here? Are you aware of your surroundings at all?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12623215565673008494 B

    I never would have guessed that someone who cries about a cultural group discussing what is offensive to them would be the same sort of person who would be sexist as well. I mean come on, seriously. Man up? I find your judgment that it’s superior to be more thick-skinned, less emotional, and more stereotypically “manly” to be intolerant and offensive.

    This is exactly the same as a thousand other trolls that progressive bloggers of all stripes have seen before, although to your credit, admittedly with far less misspellings and a million times more pathetic in its obviousness. Seriously, all I can think of when I read stuff like this is “OH MY GOD WHO CARES.” Some people just love to look for blogs trying to change how we think about and treat minority groups to get offended about and it’s a depressing commentary that many people would rather tell such historically oppressed groups to STFU than to deal with the possibility that some of their words and actions might be racist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12623215565673008494 B

    By the way, I’d like to petition to have Beric’s last comment redacted to:

    [attempts to insult people disagreeing with him by insulting women, people concerned with animal rights/welfare, and finally, Muslims]

    [asserts that because he doesn't care, no one should, and thinks it's depressing that anyone thinks differently than him]

    [compares being a member of a historically oppressed group to being white]

    reductio ad absurdum

    [asserts that people whose "complaining" HE disagrees with should find things HE finds more palatable to complain about]

    Or perhaps even more simply, it could just be reduced to:

    [troll droppings]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05469677878011824121 Beric

    I actually came across this because my friend texted me about the return of an Australian Aboriginal leader’s severed head being returned to Australia for burial. I didn’t know his name and this site was the first result for “Aboriginal Severed Head.”

    HEY EVERYONE: Read some history. “Native Americans” are either 1., no more native to America than I am, having been born here, or using what I understand is the apparent accepted criteria, 2., no more native to America than my ancestors, since NO PEOPLE are NATIVE to America.

    KEEP READING that history and you’ll see that oppression of one people by another is by no means unique to any color, religious, or ethnic group. So to suggest that there is some manner of distinction between “historically oppressed groups” and “white people” is so self-centered and myopic I can’t believe it. The key difference between certain groups is GETTING OVER IT. Remembering, for sure, and appreciating sacrifices, but letting the goddamn wound heal without ripping it open everytime someone paints a picture or names a team.

    I have ancestors who were Irish. “Historically oppressed group,” by the British, but I don’t whine about it. “Oh but it’s not the same,” I can hear you complaining. It’s totally the same. These experiences are by no means unique or special. The only difference now is that you can bitch about white people and there’s so much white guilt bred into the modern world that people will just accept it with “Oh you’re right, you’re so brave.”

    Drawing that distinction makes you the racists, not me. The difference between us is that I make no kind of distinction based on color, religion, race, ethnicity, nationality, whatever. YOU do. Who’s the racist?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00865572337931961758 Bryan

    LOL, acknowledging race (necessary in order to acknowledging racism) makes you racist.

    So hiding your head in the sand makes you much more perceptive, I suppose?