November is Native American Heritage Month, and this year it kicked off on the heels of a public protest. As the World Series of National League Baseball opened October 25, hundreds of Native Americans protested outside the first game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. They want the team to stop using what they say is the most-offensive insignia in U.S. sports, the Cleveland team’s “Chief Wahoo.” It depicts the head of a big-toothed, smiling, bright red man with a feather sticking up from his headband.
“What we hope to accomplish is to bring new awareness to this issue and have it resolved by eliminating the name and the logo,” Philip Yenyo told Al Jazeera. “From my point of view, there’s a lot of money to be made off of what I believe is the blood of a culture. They [the Cleveland Indians] also claim that they have a history, that they want to preserve. For me, I believe that their history is full of genocide.”
Other professional athletic teams use names and logos using Native American imagery, including the Washington Redskins, Chicago Blackhawks and Atlanta Braves, and similar protests have been carried out over the years. Some colleges and high schools also bear such names.
The National Congress of American Indians has a long-standing campaign to end this practice. NCAI says, “These caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.”
Native American Heritage Month, or as it is also known, American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, has been observed since 1990, when President George H. W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November for this observation.
It is a time to learn more about the history and culture of Native Americans that has for so long been neglected in academics. To facilitate discussions, DiverseBooks.net offers a variety of books that can serve as resources. Following are some selections from our publishers that were reviewed previously on DiverseBooks.net. They are available at discount prices on our Website: www.diversebooks.net
Africans and Seminoles: From Removal to Emancipation, by Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr. $18.70 (List price $22), ISBN 9781578063604, University of Mississippi Press, November 2001, ISBN 9781578063604, pp. 296.
This is a new edition documenting the interrelationship of two racial cultures in antebellum Florida and Oklahoma. Seminoles held slaves, but their system was unlike that of other slaveholders. The Seminoles often clashed with bounty hunters over ownership claims and even over who was free and who was not. Tensions mounted during the Second Seminole War, when many blacks united with Seminoles fighting against the United States. Blacks and Seminoles were later sent to Oklahoma together as part of the federal government’s “removal” project. The fortunes of the two groups remained intertwined, but their relationships were conflicted as others sought to re-enslave or control free blacks. After the Civil War, many blacks were adopted into the Seminole nation. In a preface to this edition, the author explains the controversy over their role.
Presbyterian Missionary Attitudes Toward American Indians, 1837-1893, by Michael C. Coleman, $21.25 (list price $25), University of Mississippi Press, November 2007, ISBN: 978 1604730074, pp. 236.
When 19th century Presbyterian missionaries went out to Christianize and “civilize” American Indians, the teachers took with them their own attitudes, ideas and values. The Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S., founded in 1837, dispatched more than 450 missionaries to at least 19 groups of Indians. This book uses letters the evangelizers sent home to examine their spiritual outlook and their thinking – and often prejudices — about the cultures and the people they encountered.
American Indian Children at School, 1850-1930, by Michael C. Coleman, $22.50 (List Price: $25), University of Mississippi Press, November 2007, ISBN 9781604730098, pp. 240.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Native American children and youths were separated from their families and sent to boarding schools run by religious missionaries and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They were stripped of their culture and forced to assimilate to European-American ways as part of their education. The children were forbidden to speak their native tongues and given Eurocentric names. The schools reached peak enrollment in 1973 with an estimated 60,000 students. In this book, more than 100 former students offer autobiographical accounts giving witness to their often-bewildering experiences in an alien environment, as well as their struggles to readapt when they returned to their own people.
Somebody Always Singing You, by Kaylynn Sullivan TwoTrees, $25.50 (List price: $30), University of Mississippi Press, May 1997, ISBN 9780878059812, pp. 160.
The author is a Miami University scholar who has studied with the elders of indigenous cultures in North America, Africa and New Zealand. In this memoir, she tells of her own experience as the daughter of African-American and Native American parents and of how she came to understand her complex heritage. Her father was a Lakota from a South Dakota reservation, and her mother was a black woman from Des Moines, Iowa. Because her mother was murdered when TwoTrees was very young, her black, middle-class grandparents raised her, but she visited her paternal grandmother on a reservation in the summers. (The title comes from one of the sayings of that grandmother.) TwoTree’s story reflects not only the pains of being called a “half breed” or “mixed blood” and of being the only person of color in a Catholic boarding school, but also the pleasures of learning to weave together the strands of her dual heritage.
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