When playing cowboys and Indians as a kid, I always wanted to be the Indian. Little did I know.
Back then, I thought pretending to be an Indian was neat, even better than watching Saturday morning cartoons.
According to my childhood mythos, Indians were swift runners, wise planters, crafty hunters and brave warriors. My slippers became moccasins; I would walk, silently, sneaking up on people. My jittery parents endured.
It wasn't that I thought Indians always went sneaking about, mind you; I knew they didn't. It's simply that — on TV anyway — their ability to sneak up on their enemies was amazing. Not being the biggest kid in school, I appreciated their stealth and cunning.
Indians were exotic, yes. Different. Romantic — in the James Fenimore Cooper sense. But they seemed something more. The Indians I admired were heroes; they deserved respect for how they lived and how they fought. I looked up to them. Had any pro-cowboy bigot challenged me way back when, I would've responded with a simple "What's not to like about Indians?"
Well, according to some of today's more sensitive folk — to those who stand as guardians of our schools and universities and overseers of government-produced speech — there appears to be a whole lot not to like about actually being one. The folks at UnderstandingPrejudice.org present visitors with the information that more than 30 percent of Indians living on reservations are below the poverty level and 40 percent are unemployed. (Does that mean that one out of four unemployed Indians on reservations live well without working?)
Furthermore, more than 15 percent are living without electricity and roughly one in five homes lacks indoor plumbing. And most shocking of all, today one out of five Indian girls and one out of eight Indian boys attempt suicide.
This is serious business. The destruction of Native American culture is more than terribly sad, it's tragic. The European settlers and the U.S. government decimated the Indians through systematic brutality and broken treaties, and even more through the (usually) innocent spreading of disease.
And now added to the injury of this horrific past is the insult of modern-day sports mascots that present Indians in a negative light.
Or so we're told.
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