May 18, 2007

White supremacist David Yeagley loves “playing” Indian

from the Bad Eagle journal

Yeagley continually astounds with his white supremacist attitudes, but he really seems to be losing it lately. First, Yeagley declares that "America’s makeup" is largely white when the truth is America’s pluralistic and cosmopolitan makeup defies any such monolithic exaggeration. Yeagley probably masturbates to images of America 'in white makeup.’ But Yeagley also suggests that no American Indians are left that matter — only historical Indians matter — as if Indians are no longer around today and do not significantly contribute to that which we call “America.” This is exceedingly funny considering that modern-day Yeagley is playing Indian himself for kicks, giggles and much sought after attention; how one can be so ‘self-loathing unaware’ is beyond comprehension.

David Yeagley — “The new American Indian is white... America today, like the Indian nations of old, has been generous, tolerant, and gracious to any and all... What happened to the American Indian will eventually happen to the United States, to white, Christian America... White America mustn’t kindly give away the land to foreigners—not in the name of equality and kindness... America mustn’t lose” (May 14, 2007).
Moreover, Yeagley simplistically attempts to co-opt “American values” to mean “white” values, while ignoring the rather blatant fact of America’s mixed lineage as a country of foreigners. Failing to see his own attitudes in the mirror, the great pontificator attacks Muslims and Mexicans the same way Americans did when they committed the American Indian holocaust. Ignorance is as ignorance does. And here’s the kicker, the piano doctor actually tries passing himself off as some sort of plastic medicine man, as a white man “playing Indian” to a white audience to preserve an imaginary white mythology of white superiority. However, Yeagley’s white supremacist continues to show his true color, when he consistently bashes nonwhites and envisions paranoid plots of white destruction, such as Mexicans joining forces with Muslims to destroy white America. Yeagley Yahoo is no more than fear-mongering on the false premise of white superiority and with a philosophy of reviving some narcissistic form of manifest destiny. David Yealgey is utterly ridiculous.
David Yeagley — “America is presently being colonized by foreigners—heathenish characters who do not share American values at all. And they will not leave any reservations for the ‘white’ American Indians. America will convert, or die. So, as a “red” American Indian, I counsel white America ... beware the betrayal of nationhood... The Muslim plague is epidemic. The Mexicans are rampant... They are in league with the Muslims” (May 14, 2007).
Almost needless-to-say, David Yeagley is an extreme Patriotamentia Sufferer with a bent toward moralistic paranoia, but there are better (and more logical) ways to look at American Indian issues. The stereotyped Indian mascot issues, for example, are increasingly being researched rather than remaining in the plastic realm of Yeagley’s imagination and heightened emotions. For a better read on the mascot issue, check out this very thoughtful and researched article published in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
'Playing Indian': Why Native American Mascots Must End

American Indian icons have long been controversial, but 80 colleges still use them, according to the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media... Why, nearly 30 years after Dartmouth College and Stanford University retired their American Indian mascots, do similar mascots persist at many other institutions? ...

We began to study these mascots while we were graduate students in anthropology at the University of Illinois in the early 1990s. American Indian students and their allies were endeavoring to retire Chief Illiniwek back then, as well, and the campus was the scene of intense debates. Witnessing such events inspired us to move beyond the competing arguments and try to understand the social forces and historical conditions that give life to American Indian mascots... We wanted to understand the origins of mascots; how and why they have changed over time; how arguments about mascots fit into a broader racial context; and what they might tell us about the changing shape of society.

Over the past decade, we have developed case studies on the role that mascots have played at the halftime ceremonies of the University of Illinois, Marquette University, Florida State University, and various other higher-education institutions. Recently, we published an anthology, Team Spirits: The Native American Mascots Controversy, in which both American Indian and European American academics explored "Indian-ness," "whiteness," and American Indian activism. They also suggested strategies for change — in a variety of contexts that included Syracuse University and Central Michigan University, the Los Angeles public schools, and the Washington Redskins. Our scholarship and that of others have confirmed our belief that mascots matter, and that higher-education institutions must retire these hurtful symbols.

The tradition of using the signs and symbols of American Indian tribes to identify an athletic team is part of a much broader European American habit of "playing Indian," a metaphor that Philip Joseph Deloria explores in his book of that title (Yale University Press, 1998). In his historical analysis, Deloria enumerates how white people have appropriated American Indian cultures and symbols in order to continually refashion North American identities. Mimicking the indigenous, colonized "other" through imaginary play ... has stereotyped American Indian people as bellicose, wild, brave, pristine, and even animalistic.

Educators in particular should realize that such images, by flattening conceptions of American Indians into mythological terms, obscure the complex histories and misrepresent the identities of indigenous people...

That higher-education institutions continue to support such icons and ensure their presence at athletics games and other campus events — even in the face of protest by the very people who are ostensibly memorialized by them — suggests not only an insensitivity to another race and culture, but also an urge for domination. Power in colonial and postcolonial regimes has often been manifested as the power to name, to appropriate, to represent, and to speak — and to use such powers over others. American Indian mascots are expressive practices of precisely those forms of power...

The majority of Indian mascots were invented in the first three decades of the 20th century, on the heels of such formal attempts to proscribe native dance and religion, and in the wake of the massive forced relocation that marked the 19th-century American Indian experience. European Americans so detested and feared native dance and culture that they criminalized those "pagan" practices. Yet at the same time they exhibited a passionate desire for certain Indian practices and characteristics — evidenced in part by the proliferation of American Indian mascots...

Although many supporters of such mascots have argued that they promote respect and understanding of American Indian people, such symbols and the spectacles associated with them are often used in insensitive and demeaning ways that further shape how many people perceive and engage American Indians. Boosters of teams employing American Indians have enshrined largely romanticized stereotypes — noble warriors — to represent themselves. Meanwhile, those who support competitive teams routinely have invoked images of the frontier, Manifest Destiny, ignoble savages, and buffoonish natives to capture the spirit of impending athletics contests and their participants. In our studies, we find countless instances of such mockery on the covers of athletics programs, as motifs for homecoming floats, in fan cheers, and in press coverage.

For example, in 1999, The Knoxville News-Sentinel published a cartoon in a special section commemorating the appearance of the University of Tennessee at the Fiesta Bowl. At the center of the cartoon, a train driven by a team member in a coonskin cap plows into a buffoonish caricature of a generic Indian, representing the team's opponent, the Florida State Seminoles. As he flies through the air, the Seminole exclaims, "Paleface speak with forked tongue! This land is ours as long as grass grows and river flows. Oof!"

The Tennessee player retorts, "I got news, pal. This is a desert. And we're painting it orange!" Below them, parodying the genocide associated with the conquest of North America, Smokey, a canine mascot of the University of Tennessee, and a busty Tennessee fan speed down Interstate 10, dubbed "The New and Improved Trail of Tears." What effect can such a cartoon have on people whose ancestors were victims of the actual Trail of Tears? ...

Such images and performances not only deter cross-cultural understanding and handicap social relations, they also harm individuals because they deform indigenous traditions, question identities, and subject both American Indians and European Americans to threatening experiences...

Environmental historian Richard White has suggested that "[White Americans] are pious toward Indian peoples, but we don't take them seriously”... The omnipresence of American Indian mascots serves only to advance the inability to accept American Indians as indeed contingent, complicated, diverse, and genuine Americans. Ultimately, American Indian mascots cannot be separated from their origins in colonial conditions of exploitation. Because the problem with such mascots is one of context, they can never be anything more than a white man's Indian.

Based on our research and observations, we cannot imagine a middle ground for colleges with Indian mascots to take — one that respects indigenous people, upholds the ideals of higher education, or promotes cross-cultural understanding. For instance, requiring students to take courses focusing on American Indian heritage, as some have suggested, reveals a troubling vision of the fit between curriculum, historic inequities, and social reform. Would we excuse colleges with active women's-studies curriculums if their policies and practices created a hostile environment for women? ...

American Indian mascots directly contradict the ideals that most higher-education institutions seek — those of transcending racial and cultural boundaries and encouraging respectful relations among all people who live and work on their campuses. Colleges and universities bear a moral responsibility to relegate the unreal and unseemly parade of "team spirits" to history.

Charles Fruehling Springwood is an assistant professor of anthropology at Illinois Wesleyan University. C. Richard King is an assistant professor of anthropology at Drake University. They are co-editors of Team Spirits: The Native American Mascots Controversy (University of Nebraska Press, 2001) and co-authors of Beyond the Cheers: Race as Spectacle in College Sport (SUNY Press, 2001).