Respect… or an insult?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Ever been to a football or basketball game when one of the teams carried a nickname that had to do with Native Americans, like Indians, Braves, Redskins or Warriors? Ever seen one of the team’s mascots run out in Indian attire, dance around and maybe pull out a tomahawk?

To some, that’s a reason to laugh or cheer. But to some local Indians, it’s a sign of insolence to culture and history.

&uot;When there’s someone out there playing with a tomahawk, wearing clothes we never wore or doing dances we’ve never done, that’s disrespectful,&uot; said David Perry, a member of the Tuscurora tribe of North Carolina. &uot;How would black people react if a team was called the Negroes? How would people react if a team was called the Caucasians or Polacks? The teams may say that they’re showing us respect, but if they want to respect us, they should ask our opinion. No one wants to see it through our eyes. If people came to our powwows, they would see the honor and respect that we have for ourselves and our people.&uot;

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As hundreds saw that during the 18th annual Nansemond Indian Powwow over the weekend at Lone Star Lakes park, Jim Cooper sat at a booth, selling Indian memorabilia.

&uot;I have mixed emotions,&uot; the Canada Metis member said of Native American monikers in sports. &uot;Some of those schools have logos and names that are chosen by Indian groups. Not all of us are offended.

&uot;As long as it’s done with respect, it’s fine. When you have a mascot run out with feathers and a big nose, that’s not respect.&uot;

Nansemond River athletic director Phil Braswell, whose school carries the nickname Warriors (but doesn’t have such a mascot) said that he hadn’t heard of any complaints from locals about the name.

&uot;I don’t have a problem with teams using names like Braves,&uot; said Sue Lyons of the Cherokee tribe, &uot;but I do with the mascots. When we dress and act in a certain way, we are honoring our Creator. I don’t feel like they are honoring us; it’s more of an attention-getting thing.&uot;

Nansemond member Penny Green hoped people would just sit down and talk things out.

&uot;I see both sides of it,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m kind of torn. I think that if everybody got together, it could be worked out.&uot;