Of Mohawks and American Indians

Sculptor Jason Quigno (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan) wears his Mohawk in the spirit of our ancestors

Sculptor Jason Quigno (Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan) wears his Mohawk in the spirit of our ancestors

Commentary

Published September 22, 2015

American Indians may wear Mohawk-style haircuts for different reasons. It is not for me or others to judge.

Gun Lake Tribe Chairman D.K. Sprague at Grand Entry at powwow in July

Gun Lake Tribe Chairman D.K. Sprague at Grand Entry at powwow in July

In July I was covering the inaugural Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (Gun Lake Tribe) Powwow in Hopkins, Michigan for this publication. Into the dance arena walks D.K. Sprague, the longtime tribal chairman of the Gun Lake Tribe, wearing a purple ribbon-shirt and a Mohawk-style haircut. The haircut gave Chairman Sprague a warrior-look. Of course, Chairman Sprague is a warrior because he served in Vietnam as a communications officer and he led the decade-long fight against the powers that be in Grand Rapids to win the right to open the successful Gun Lake Casino. After the powwow, I found out the chairman-still a warrior-wore the Mohawk-style haircut to support a friend’s fight against cancer.

Then yesterday, as I was leaving the fitness center after a workout, I ran into the talented and award-winning Native sculptor Jason Quigno sporting a week-old Mohawk-style haircut. Quigno is a burly-looking Chippewa man, who with his Mohawk haircut could bypass Santa Fe, where he won first place for his sculpture art at the Indian Market in Santa Fe a couple of years ago, and move on to Hollywood for a American Indian role to play a warrior.

I told him I liked his haircut and told him I had written a story about the second-grader in Utah who, according to his teacher had “disrupted” his classroom out in Utah, because he came back to school a week ago Monday wearing a Mohawk-style haircut.

“That’s just stupid,” quipped Quigno with a broad smile on his face. “I’m proud to wear my hair as like our ancestors did.”

Several national news publications ran the story about Utah seven-year-old, Jakobe Sanden, who is Seneca from his father’s side and Paiute from is mother’s side. Young Jakobe decided he wanted a Mohawk-style haircut the last time he went to get a haircut.

“He has had Mohawk at different times of his life. We let him decide,” Gary Sanden, Jakobe’s father told me on Sunday night. “It is a matter of pride for him.”

The father’s Seneca warrior-blood came out once he received a call from his wife, who got a call from the school to come and pick Jakobe up because his haircut was against school policy.

“I told them we would not pick him up because the Mohawk is part of our heritage,” said Sanden. “I was told that I had to get a letter from a tribe telling the school a Mohawk haircut is part of our culture. My wife called her tribe and I called my tribe and I got a letter. I asked the school official if a Jewish boy came with curls that did not look as it fit in with the other boys, would his parents have to get a letter from a Jewish synagogue? I was told yes and I did not believe that.”

Seneca second-grader detained in school office until Seneca Trive could confirm his Mohawk was part of his culture

Seneca second-grader detained in school office until Seneca Trive could confirm his Mohawk was part of his culture

Surrounded by several tribes in southwest Utah, Arrowhead Elementary School has less than five percent American Indian enrollment.

Apparently, as in the days of Indian boarding schools, the school system there wants American Indian boys to conform to what they think boys should look like. Back then, American Indian boys were given buzz-cuts as to get rid of the long hair that was traditional to American Indian culture.

“The Mohawk is a sign of being a warrior,” commented Billy “Prince” Canella to Native News Online. Canella is the tribal councilor from the Seneca Nation of Indians, who wrote the letter to get Jakobe back to his classroom after spending three hours detained in the office.

One thing we as American Indians know from the Utah incident is: It is time for school systems to allow American Indians to be who we are – with or without a Mohawk.

 

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2 Comments
  1. Lena Toledo 3 years ago
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