In the current debate, real Indians won't be heard as long as the media thinks they've vanished into the mists of time.

I'm Not Your Disappearing Indian

Jacqueline Keeler

Obviously, #CancelColbert did not lead to the canceling of The Colbert Report, and in a New Yorker interview Ms. Park claimed she never intended for the show to be cancelled; furthermore, she had never even viewed the actual skit, and had reacted to a tweet (since deleted) without understanding the original joke to which it referred. What’s most frustrating to me is that a deleted tweet garnered more outrage than the actual existence of a foundation to promote a slur against Native Americans. A foundation announced just days after the U.S. Patent Office, reasoning that the word is a racist epithet, refused to grant a trademark to "Washington Redsk*ns Potatoes"! A potato has more rights than Native people do! (And yes, there is a Native hashtag for it -- #NotYourPotato -- and no, our allies on Twitter have not trended it.)

Lost in all of this was that the skit was (until that truly awful name of the satirical foundation was uttered) an excellent takedown of Dan Snyder, billionaire owner of the NFL team the Washington Redsk*ns. The skit did a great job pointing out that the donated 3,000 coats were like giving blankets & beads for land, and the ridiculousness of a billionaire owner of an NFL team valued at $1.8 Billion trumpeting his partial donation towards the purchase of a tractor. Yes, Snyder didn’t even pay for the entire tractor, which the "Stephen Colbert" character notes his staff found priced at $2,500 on eBay. The skit culminates with Colbert, the character, announcing he is so inspired by Dan Snyder’s OAF he has decided to create his own horrifically-named "Ching Chong Ding Dong Foundation." Then to drive the point home even more clearly, Colbert tells the audience that we can all thank Dan Snyder for that—not him.

That the emphasis in Twitter outage was on the SATIRE of a racist foundation versus an ACTUAL racist foundation just shows how marginalized we are. Imagine if all that ire, outrage, and sheer indignation had been directed with the same ferocity at Snyder and the Redsk*ns? 80 years of a slur in the NFL would be over now.

I forget that most people, even other people of color, have never met a Native American. That the figure they have in their minds is some kind of rough construct adorned in feathers and wearing fringed buckskin and saying little.  When they meet me, with my long, black hair and dark eyes and high cheekbones, it doesn’t occur to me that they may be trying to fit me into that jumble of stereotypes they carry around. I have always seen myself, until now, as a member of this group of PoC journalists and activists.

“Native Mascotry” is a term I coined to describe the practices that surround a Native mascot. It’s not just about the static image of the mascot, be it somewhat noble and prosaic or an ugly caricature with a feather on top. It’s the creative license such mascots gives fans to reenact outdated stereotypes, to "play Indian." These practices include: the wearing of Redface, the misuse of Native regalia and the chanting of fake, hokey war chants and tomahawk chops. This year at the Rose Bowl, a group of Florida State University students each held up a letter to spell "Scalp Em," yet this did not inspire our Twitter allies into #CancelColbert levels of action. (And yes, there was a Native hashtag for it, #RedfaceDisgrace.)


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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
It's a shame when one minority is too dense to comprehend the satire used to point out the discrimination of another minority and completely derails the (what would have been) a successful protest against racism. The problem that we are among the invisible people is obvious when I go out in public. If there were laws against being openly Indian in public, I would be arrested every time. I'm not saying wear feathers everywhere you go, but at least be more vocal about Native concerns. There is a day of silence (today 4/4) that people observe to bring attention to gay discrimination, why can't we organize something similar?

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I think I may have just found the solution to our invisibility in another article here. "I'm not your disappearing Indian" shows how we can use art to shed our cloak of invisibility. " Miles is grateful to the monOrchid Gallery because he hasn’t had a gallery show in a while. Even Native American galleries haven’t hosted a show of his work recently. Is it because his art is still too challenging for mainstream galleries? Could be, he says. “America likes its Indians quiet. America likes its Indians docile, and noble. They like to look at Indians through what I call the pristine lens of the past. Pristine meaning clean and pure. So they don’t really have to look at what they did.” Read more at

curtj's picture
Submitted by curtj on
It's sad that we're not more outspoken, or rather our leaders. we're stuck inside a box of colonialism, with dictated education that glosses over the policies that changed ownership of resources and lands from our people to the European immigrants and their descendants. All the people we send away to go to school come back still stuck inside the box of ideals, philosophies, and philosophies of the colonial governments, who continue to instigate and manipulate invasions and coups, to enable their corporate masters to go in and profit off stolen or coerced resources and lands. Our leaders are timid and voiceless, even when they get to see the president(in a group), they are forced to agree on what to say to him.

florm's picture
Submitted by florm on
Thank you. I am very appreciative of your article, and for the collaborative, hopeful examples of supporting actions. I have been healed at times by seeing the many people and organizations who step forward and are taking actions to help change the mascots. We see too very difficult aspects of humanity in the process. May this experience help us overcome. Thank you for your wonderful writing, I look forward to more.

Valjones8's picture
Submitted by Valjones8 on
I admire so much your writing and the subsequent cultural education I get from it. I am white and ignorant, and "colonialism" was not even in my vocabulary a month ago. Yet, the more I read from writers like yourself, the more I feel the heavy, debilitating weight of that colonialism on my sensibilities and beliefs. I am searching for ways to help. Thank you for the education your efforts have afforded me. -Val