My name is Molly Batchelder. I am blessed to be a member of Sacred Sites Protection and Rights of Indigenous Tribes. And over the past two years I have been involved in the mascot decolonization work at John Swett High School, my alma mater.
This was me, playing Indian, when I was in high school. This was me, isolating the Native American experience as a 16 year old white girl: with faux buckskin and face paint, and tomahawk, likely performing the gestures we’ve all learned from Saturday morning cartoons and from playing cowboys and Indians. We all know these gestures. And this behavior was reinforced as acceptable, not only by mass media and pop culture, but by my learning institution. I was encouraged to actually BE an Indian. While opposing teams held up banners at football games that read: “Kill the Indians”; “Scalp the Indians.”
After the John Swett Education board voted unanimously this past March to retire their Indian mascot, one former student messaged me and said, “Great, thanks to you no one will even remember that Indians existed.” To which I replied, “Do you think Native Americans are extinct?”
The lines of fact and fiction are so blurred because of these mascots. For so many people in this country, the Indian I played in high school has actually replaced real human beings. Please, I ask you to think about the implications when the dominant culture gets to control the image of another culture. And then teaches its children to use the horrors of forgotten genocide as common sports banter.
I am not an Indian. I am European American, with a whole history of stories of my own and lines of ancestors that have contributed to the person I am today. I have a responsibility grow and develop my own image. Indigenous peoples have a responsibility to do the same with theirs, however they choose. And we all have a responsibility to see each other as human.
This is an exciting time. We are all now part of a mass movement where we have a chance to recognize the truth about these mascots and bring in together a new era of education and awareness for our future generations. Please, join us.