Thursday, November 28, 2013

Grandmother's House

It's great to have one day of the year dedicated to gratitude, and a family holiday with food and other traditions.  But the U.S. Thanksgiving origin story again meets aspects of current reality: the day that Native Americans shared their food with starving Pilgrims, only to have the invaders slaughter them a year or so later.

American Indians have been victimized ever since, in large ways and small.  Their remaining land is the least desirable and usable, often now a dumping ground for hazardous waste and locales of toxic mining.  The lands that have remained relatively undisturbed are so remote and harsh that white people don't much want them.  So it is not much of a surprise that the first American climate crisis refugees are apt to be Inuit.

But this day is a living taunt in other ways.  Football is part of the tradition for many now, and the refusal of teams to understand the reasons for moving on from their Indian mascot names reaps ever new outrages, such as this one in Alabama, the equivalent of using the Holocaust to taunt a football opponent.  Nor is this some remote history--scroll down this story to the comments and see how close it is: "My Mvskoke great-great-grandfather, Moses Moore, and his family saw their lands near Dudleyville, Alabama, which is just 110 miles from McAdory High, taken away from them in 1838 by the federal policy that created the Trail of Tears."

In the NFL the name of the Washington team has been the focus of high controversy.  Pitfalls of the name are multiple, as evidenced last week, when the results of a game yielded headlines like 49ers Massacre Redskins.  For California Indians, it is too close to the historical reality of less than two centuries ago to be unnoticed.