‘Imagining the Indian‘ brings to light the trauma and neglect faced by Native American societies as only being seen as a comical mascot.
Thanks to external pressures that forced the Washington Redskins (which will from here on out be known as the ‘R-Word‘) to the Cleveland Indians to change their names to the Commanders and Guardians respectively, Native American imagery as mascots has been demeaning for decades to the First Nations of the United States.
In America’s top professional leagues Native American either tribes or titles are still being used. In ice hockey, there are the Chicago Blackhawks, baseball has the Braves and the defending Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs are currently the most notable example of Native American imagery, that will have all eyes on them in Las Vegas, NV as they face the San Francisco 49ers.
However, Sunday’s game will not just be based on, “good fun” with drum beating, head dresses, face paint and tomahawk chops. These images, whether based in old stories, or Hollywood films has reduced all 500 plus indigenous tribes to cartoonish caricatures, reduced to nothing more than a savage, simple mascot.
The old notion of, “Kill the savage, save the man,” has never died in America. If we admit the international atrocities of various genocides committed around the world, then we would have to admit our own guilt in the genocide committed by the original European settlers against Native Americans. Casinos and mascots do not rectify the blood spilt crying out from the soil.
In the documentary, ‘Imagining the Indian‘, filmmakers Aviva Kempner (‘The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg‘) and Cheyenne filmmaker Ben West open our eyes to the harmful and demeaning stereotypes Native Americans have faced for the past 400 years.
As a society that seems to be fighting for inclusion and use of proper pronouns, we seem to continue to ignore the damage done to our First Nations. For those of us who’s family escaped tyranny overseas, where are the Native American tries to escape the genocide they faced on their own land? Most recently the Dakota Access Pipeline comes to mind, when hoses in the dead of winter were turned on protestors and the media was silent.
Through Kempner and West, we learn about how Florida State University and University of Utah have made agreements with the Seminoles and Utes as their images, while trying to be as respectful as possible. However, with the professional sports teams, those images remain troublesome.
The fight is still being taken to Washington D.C. on behalf of Native Americans and I am not insulting the fanbases of the teams mentioned above, but just like how the Washington and Cleveland were able to change their names, hopefully, the other three will follow their lead.
‘Imagining the Indian‘, releases on Tuesday, February 6, 2024 on VOD and DVD.
Please visit imaginingtheindianfilm.org, to learn more about the film and the First Nations showing their support. Being the descendent of genocide survivors, I can only empathize with everyone in this documentary and all their suffering.
Official Press Release:
The reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City football team will be defending their title in Las Vegas on Sunday, February 11, at Super Bowl LVIII.
What’s indefensible is that same Kansas City team, with the tacit approval of the NFL and NFL team owners, will once again be allowed to flaunt its name and logo that many Native Americans find, to say the least, offensive.
Five days before Super Bowl LVIII, on Tuesday, February 6, the award-winning documentary Imagining The Indian will be available on Amazon, Apple TV, and DVD.
Directed by Aviva Kempner (The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg) and Cheyenne filmmaker Ben West, ‘Imagining the Indian‘ is a comprehensive look at the movement to eradicate the words, images, and gestures that many Native Americans and their allies find harmful, demeaning, and offensive.
The film examines mascoting issues through archival footage and interviews with those involved in the fight. It shows how teams such as the Kansas City football team has refused to consider a change and brings a new attention and urgency to the issue.