After a long day at work and a heated online argument over today’s Supreme Court ruling, I got off the bus a little irritated and wanted nothing more than to relax with my dog. I quickly popped onto Facebook to see what was up, only to find myself angered. Someone actually created an online quiz/game called “What Is Your Native American Name?” The quiz can be found on http://www.playbuzz.com and was posted by Katelyn Whitebloom on June 26th, to date the quiz has received half a million Facebook shares and 1,200 tweets. That is a lot of people viewing and completing the highly offensive quiz.
According to buzzplay.com it is an open network for end users, publishers, bloggers and brands to create and share playful content items such as quizzes, lists and polls. I highly doubt they have someone on their team reviewing said quizzes for cultural insensitivity nor do I think people would be down with a quiz titled “What is your white man/Jewish/Muslim ect. name?” We as a society have decided that the fore mentioned would be offensive to others, yet when it comes to Indian people, they are fair game. This is also probably why people don’t think twice when dressing up as an Indian for Halloween and sporting events. Someone once told me that by dressing up in Indian costumes they were honoring Indian culture. Truth you are not honoring anything, in reality you are wedging the tomahawk a little further into our backs.
Native American names are sacred and are handed down during a Naming Ceremony. The Naming Ceremony remembers the Original Man’s sacrifice for naming everything. It requires a father and mother to ask a medicine person to seek a name for their child. The medicine person does the seeking by fasting, meditation, prayer, or dreaming and the spirit gives the name. The medicine person burns an offering of tobacco and pronounces the name to the 4 directions. The people at the ceremony repeat the name when it is called out by the medicine person. After the name is announced the spirit world can then accept the name and recognize the child as a living thing for the first time. The Spirit World and ancestors guard the child and prepare a place in the spirit world for when the end of their life comes. Each and every Tribe has the same practice with variations suited to their creation story and belief system.
I admit I took the quiz mostly because I wanted to see what it was all about. The imagery of cartoon Indians is completely offensive. The questions that are asked make no real reference to Native American culture and spiritual beliefs. Last time I look at my Father he did not have a football shaped head with a single feather sticking out of the top. Its like the creator of the quiz tried to make the cartoons ok by sticking a somewhat acceptable portrait of Native Americans under the cartoons.
The cartoons were just the tip of the iceberg, the quiz got worse and more degrading as it went on. As in they ask you “When you spot a fight happening, you are the one to:” Really, really you need to ask that kind of question in a game? Millions of Native Americans lost their lives in the name of freedom. They were scalped, raped, and murdered all in the name of westward progress. Children were taken from the reservations only to be beaten to death in a boarding school because they refused to speak English or to get their haircut short. My Great Great Great Great Grandmother was a female war chief and she did NOT back down from conflict. She led her people into the fray and fought like hell to stay alive. I just like her do not back down from a fight and I will stand my ground in the name of freedom.
The image for question #3 left me scratching my head. This quiz is about Native American names, yet we see a group of white people sitting at a table working on a project. Why not use a picture of a chief sitting across from a BIA agent hammering out a treaty? By using this image they are suggesting that Native people are not capable of working in a group. Trust me we are, hence we created AIM, Idle No More, and the NIEA and the NIGA. We created those groups and they are run by Native American people.
Out of the entire quiz question #4 is what stuck me as deeply offensive. One of the options to choose from was “Conformity.” Conformity is not a value it is not even a choice when it comes to the American Indian. They were forced to conform and assimilate to the white Christian ways. They had no choice in the matter and it is definitely not a value they attribute to base there lives upon. My Great Grandmother Geneva refused to conform, she refused to give up her land, her life, and in the end she lost her children. Her children were pawns in the name of progress. Indian country is littered with tear filled eyes of elders who were forced to conform to the white ways. They were forced to believe in a God that didn’t believe in them, they gave up their language, the lives, their culture, all in the name of conformity.
Maybe my Grandfather Clifford would have never sought comfort in a bottle if he wasn’t ripped from the life he knew. Maybe his story would have been different if he was allowed to grow up on the reservation instead of a farm in Wabasha county. My Grandfather is just another casualty, thrown by the wayside of progress. They say the red road is lined with whiskey bottles and tears. That those who tread upon it understand the pain of their ancestors and they use that pain to fight for a better day.
My sister and I do not have Native American Names, we were instead baptized into the Christian faith. However our parents raised us as biracial children. I am proud to say that I am a German Irish Ojibway Indian. I recognize that my ancestors suffered and endured so that I could be free today. All because of their turmoil my Grandfather was free to marry a white woman that bore his 13 children. My family is diverse, but one thing remains the same Indian blood still runs through our veins. We answer to a higher calling, have a deeper understanding of the spiritual realm, and mostly we live our lives with meaning. Each generation will learn about Chief Sky Woman, a voyager named Basil, Geneva and our grandfather. There names will never die as long as we keep on sharing their stories.
Someone told me today that the minim wage worker is the new 2nd class citizen, your are wrong my friend, the American Indian is and will always be a 2nd class citizen in this country. This will ring true until someone stands up and pushes for reform. I maybe white on the outside, but deep down my soul is 100% red. I believe that the 7th generation can create change, that we can tip the status quo, and eliminate cultural/spiritual ignorance in our society.
It starts with you my friend. Before you click the link and play stop and think about how insensitive it truly is. Do not take away the sacred meaning of an Indian name, you do not see Native people making fun of your Baptism name or ceremony. So why would you make fun of our religious ceremony.