American Indians Deserve Our Respect

After seeing the film The Internet’s Own Boy, a documentary about the late Aaron Swartz, I felt obliged to tweet a message of condolence to Quinn Norton, Swartz’s once girlfriend. I began following her on Twitter immediately after I responded to her as she has many erudite thoughts on Internet culture. She tweeted the following on July 4th.

Quinn Norton Twitter

I read the article and disagreed with Norton’s assertion that naming American helicopters after Native American tribes is disrespectful. I thought, If anything it’s a way of bestowing honor on a people who were fierce fighters. But Norton pressed me to go further and research the issue before making up my mind. I’m glad I did because I can see her point now.

She pointed out that terms like Navajo (which there is even an argument about how to correctly spell this word. Some folks are worried that spelling the word with a “J” will lead folks to mis-pronounce the word “nav-a-joe.” Because of this, some folks have rejected this European way of spelling and have sought to adjust the spelling to “Navaho.”) are bestowed upon a group of people who already have a name for themselves. In this case the people commonly referred to as “Navaho” call themselves “Diné.” When conversing with them, they will tell you that this word simply means “The People.”

That’s certainly a perspective shifting thought. During my twitter conversation with Norton, I pointed out that I do believe the ongoing kerfuffle over the name of the football team from Washington is justified. The video that started it all is powerful and makes a strong case for the name change.

 

The video is very well put together and elicits an emotional response from me. I worry those who are recalcitrant about changing the name will wind up on the wrong side of history. I’m from Kansas City so I thought the football team I root for, the Chiefs, were safe. But apparently that’s not the case. An article published on Slate.com points out that teams including the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Florida State Seminoles among others all play on land seized from American Indians.

KC-Chiefs

That’s a downright discomfiting thought. I can now empathize with fans of the Washington Redskins who are true fans. I speculate that many of them are like me and aren’t sure what the best course of action is. I am conflicted. I don’t want to support an organization that disrespects people, but I also don’t want to lose hold of a team that I’ve come to love. After much thinking on this subject I’ve decided that I will be okay with a name change. I think taking one’s cue from William Shakespeare is prudent. After all, “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.”

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