Over the past few years, a small minority of American Indians have been filing lawsuits to block the use of names, likenesses, fashions, and other such cultural properties by schools, advertisers, and other institutions. It has culminated, regionally, in the attempt to stop the University of Illinois from having Chief Illiniwek dance during the halftime of games. As some of my ancestors were here long before Columbus got lost on his way to China, I’d like to join in this national campaign. I hereby demand that, if you have no blood ties to any of the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, you must stop using any references which have roots in my indigenous people’s many tongues. If it originated on this side of the globe, and your ancestors come from the other (no matter if it was nearly five hundred years ago), you have no right to mention our people, places or things. You will cease and desist all reference to things you were not originally genetically tied to. And this change begins with the following:
You will have to rename these places, among others: Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, North and Sout Dakota, Chicago, Milwaukee, Waukegan, Sioux City and Sioux Falls, Oklahoma (City and state), and, of course, Indianapolis, Indiana. Also, you will have to rename Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nantucket, Pawtucket, Omaha, Wichita, Keokuk, Oquawka, Kankakee, Patuxent, Shenandoah, Chesapeake, Chincoteague, Assateague, Calumet City, Kissimee, Okeefenokee, Oklahoma, Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, Yakima, Tucson, Erie, Huron, Macinac, Waukegan, Appalachia, and the Mattaponi, Rappahannock, and Potomac Rivers. I expect you to come up with new names for Sheboygan, Ottawa, Ottumwa, and Tippecanoe. Further, no more will you refer to Sauk River or County, Appamatox, Manassas, Oneida, Oswego, Ontario, Manhattan, Delhi (no, sorry, that’s the other Indians), Delicatessen (sorry again. That’s the tribes of Israel, isn’t it?), Muskegon, Kickapoo, Niagara, Peoria, Tuskaloosa, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Utah, Adirondack, Tampico, or Ossining (but you can still call the prison Sing-Sing, since I’m feeling generous). And those are for starters.
Not to be forgotten, any words we started which are not simple place-names you will have to replace, as well. You will cease referring to these items by our names: moccasin, mukluk, potato, tomato, skunk, tipi, wigwam, hogan, tomahawk, atlatl, tomtom, calumet, catalpa, chinook, coho, conestoga, manatee, caribou, moose, tanager, pawpaw, hominy, ipecac, pone, annatto, iguana, pecan, jaguar, canoe, tobacco, toboggan, hurricane, peccary, coyote, ocelot, terrapin, cocaine, igloo, poncho, kayak, papoose, squaw, cannibal, barbecue, alpaca, abalone, llama, macaw, toucan, caiman, avocado, guacamole, maize, cocoa, chocolate, chili, peyote, woodchuck, wickiup, opossum, powwow, potlatch, quahog, raccoon, squash, succotash, cashew, chigger, chinchilla, cougar, gaucho, guava, jerky, malamute, pemmican, petunia, sasquatch, tapioca, yucca, hockey, anorak, mugwump, high muckamuck, caucus and totem.
And, you can quit using our names and likenesses on any logos, from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Fighting Illini’s Chief Illiniwek (even though the people of the Illini nations are all long since dead, we’re offended for them) to the Atlanta Braves to Winnebagos, Pontiacs, Calumet Baking Powder, the Algonquin Hotel and Mohawk Carpets. And stop talking as if you know anything about Pocahontas, Tecumseh, Geronimo, Powhatan, Hiawatha, Pontiac, Sequoyah, Osceola, Cochise or even Sacagawea.
In exchange, we promise to no longer use any of your words (just as soon as we finish winning this lawsuit, since we’ll need those words to argue in court) and names, like Rebekah, Renee, John, Sue, William, James, Guillermo, Maria, Pedro, Juan, David, Lee, Britney, Jorge, Ivan, and the like. We will cease using anything which you guys brought over with you, like apples, cherries, horses, glass, guns, cash and coins, steel, denim and other machine-woven fabrics, etc., and we’ll eschew anything developed by you non-natives in subsequent years, such as credit cards, electricity, modern medicines, modern farming technology, modern building technology, internal combustion engines, gambling casinos, telephones, satellite communications, and such. We’ll go back to absolute independence and self-sufficiency. And, after we’ve starved ourselves to death in this modern world, you can go ahead and use all our stuff without any more objections.
Or, we can all acknowledge that this practise of living among other human beings is a growing, sharing process, and that there will always need to be a respectful give-and-take. Oy! but that would make our ancestors proud -- both the indigenous and the immigrant ones.
Recommended Reading:The Bad Eagle, an interview by Jamie Glazov with Dr. David Yeagley.