Feb 072010
Authors: Melissa Schindler

I have often expressed my woe regarding our nation’s seeming inability to cope in general. We fail to teach our children how to address and manage the range of emotions they experience when interacting with others.

We see it on a daily basis with those who choose to take their frustrations out on whoever stands in the path of their semiautomatic weapons. We see it on a daily basis with those parents unable to adequately raise their children to accept differences in others. We see it on a daily basis with domestic violence and child and elderly abuse.

At the same time, it confounds the mind and saddens the heart to acknowledge that many in our society fail to recognize that an event like “Cowboys and Indians” is fundamentally wrong. It is not, as some would say, innocuous. It is not, as some would say, just an event to rally school spirit.

It drives a stake into the hearts of Native American peoples. Sure, there was a time when Natives weren’t considered people. Sure, there was a time when the lands of the indigenous peoples were outright stolen. That part of history is in the past.

What our society fails to recognize is that it continues to be a struggle faced by indigenous people all over this great land. Native cultures are vibrant and members of those Native Nations struggle on a daily basis to continue to practice their cultural heritage without ridicule or negative stereotyping.

Natives struggle on a daily basis to hold the federal government responsible for the agreements and treaties it made with Native Nations across this land in order to allow others to live here.

They continue to struggle on a daily basis to forgive the ignorance of mainstream society that wishes to just sweep all other cultures, particularly Native cultures, under the rug. They continue to struggle on a daily basis to find a way to balance their culture and the larger American culture that surrounds them.

As a member of the Haudenausaunee people, it is incredibly offensive to know that the negative stereotypes are alive and well. I don’t drink or like to party. Many of my friends and family also don’t. Yet, I have to fight that stereotype every day.

What an ignorant person to make such a comment, to believe such a stereotype and then to use it to justify slamming entire cultures that live as vibrantly today as 500 years ago.

As a Native woman who fights every day to raise her children to learn and live their culture while at the same time learning and living in America, it is scary to know that as adults they will continue to face ignorance and fear and hostility for being who they are in a time and place that must just pay lip service to the notion that this country is a melting pot and there is, among others, freedom of speech and religion.

Those basic freedoms do not exist as a shield to hide behind when you spew hatred, callousness and ignorance. Those freedoms exist for us to learn about each other, to peacefully coexist with each other, and to watch in glorious awe when we see others practicing their fundamental rights.

In the end, if you really think about what you are asking people to do by participating in “Cowboys and Indians,” it doesn’t make any sense. Let’s have a game, “Germans vs. the Jews.”

All Germans wear swastikas and all Jews wear tattered prison garbs with no food or water for a week, or two weeks, before the game.

How many people would be offended by such a notion? How many people would then argue that point and say it’s only a game? How many people would say, “Well, the Jews love to make money, so this is just letting them do that?”

At what point do we stop this madness?

Melissa Schindler is a member of the Seneca Tribe, Cattaraugus Territory, Iroquois Confederacy. She is also the niece of Jennifer Tallchief, who is Assistant to the Chair in CSU’s Dept. of Statistics. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 1:41 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.