Graphic design by Lucie Ann Skjefte
When is enough, enough? Why is there such a need to protect this controversial hockey team name?
The answer for me was a protest at the Chicago Blackhawks home opener on October 7, 2015.
We arrived at the stadium close to the red carpet opening event, near a gated entrance. I had not anticipated being so close, but it ended up being to our advantage. Our chants drew legitimate head-turns the entire time.
Passing ticket holders would mumble under their breath, low to the point of inaudible; we would then tell them, “Say it to our face.” This, in turn, resulted in a loud cry, “Go home!”
Then came one of the most insulting remarks I had with an ignorant fan, “Hey man, I just want to tell you go home and I wanted to make sure you knew how to use Google?”This was a cheap shot and I have a degree in computer science. In the land of American Indian stereotypes that would be more than likely be the last profession he would have guessed.
Our biggest spike wasn’t actually addressing non-American Indians with our opinions. An unexpected challenger was sent our way. It was just like a classic Indian-on-Indian war, we had an anti-protest across the street at the entrance of the United Center. There was a Native holding a sign that read: “I Am a Proud Native American.”
This scenario led us to the most sour of thoughts, an entire anti-picket line of American Indians that find no problem with the exploitation of our culture and the compliance with the bread crumbs this billion dollar organization offers our Native poor community.
Following the Washington football debate, there is very little difference in this divide-and-conquer tactic.
We’re at points of deadly toxicity with our city of Chicago, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise. The city’s seal that is printed on all cop cars, municipal buildings and street art is of an American Indian in a war bonnet, waving in a huge Mayflower-esque boat to the coast. Gesturing as if to say, “Come on over, the land is free!” Our Indian monuments in Grant and Millennium Parks have headdress, loincloth Indians on horseback, with pulled bow and arrow. The mixed bag of American Indian stereotypes in these two examples, coupled with the Chicago Blackhawks, makes this a tough city to have a sound mind in as an American Indian.
But this is just the beginning, I’m glad we started to call out institutionalized racism in this city. I thank the bravery of our organizers, Janie Pochel, Cree/Lakota, and family; there is no going back now. We have carved our path and will be waiting to voice our objections at future games.
Anthony Roy, Ojibway of M’Chigeeng First Nations Ontario, Canada, is an activist for the representation of Native American Imagery in media, primarily in sports. He is a computer scientist. He is the founder of This Should Be The Blackhawks Logo! – a blog focused on the harmful effects of Native Imagery in sports.
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