So as we pay tribute to Mr. Gregory and to Indigenous People, there are a few things we can begin with recognizing — and I am sure Mr. Gregory and our Indigenous brothers and sisters will agree:
- Everything is NOT funny
- Do not refer to Totem Poles (ie. “Low man on the totem pole) —they are symbolic and monuments. According to Alice Huang of First Nations Studies, and my sister friend Patty Talahongva – past president of the Native American Journalists Association.
- Do not say “Indian Giver” — While Indian Country Today references author Thomas Hutchinson’s definition as “something for which an equivalent return is expected,” that is not how the term is used. Instead it is mostly used as it is defined in dictionaries as, “A person who gives someone something, then wants it back.”
- Now I am ready for the pushback on mascot names. I just ask,”why would you use a name that people tell you is offensive to them? WHY?
- Don’t use Powwow when scheduling a meeting — powwows are celebration of Native heritage, art and community, says Benny Wayne Sully, a Sicangu Lakota Native.
- Stop appropriating language, symbols, and traditions of Native Americans — Did you know that prior to 1978 there were federal laws preventing Native Americans from practicing their culture?
- Don’t call them Indians. They are Native American, Indigenous or First Nations. OK, you say you’ve heard Natives call one another, “Indians.” Well, you have heard Black people call one another the title of Mr. Gregory’s best-seller, “Nigger.” What are you gonna do?
- Stop dressing up as Natives — Race and Culture are not costumes
- Don’t say you’re Native if you aren’t enrolled in a tribe — I don’t care how high your cheekbones are!