Leftist Indian leaders famously condemn the use of Indians as school mascots, but the truth is, Indians use mascots, too. No, I’m not talking about Indian schools that have logos like “Warriors,” “Chiefs,” or “Indians.” I mean the real mascot all Indians use: the American Flag.
Indians use the American flag in precisely the same way that American schools use the image of the Indian. It’s all about strength. The human heart enshrines emblems of strength.
It happens at very Indian pow-wow. The evening begins with a grand entry of all the dancers into the arena. The color guard leads with the eagle staff and the American flag, together with a state flag, military flags, and whatever other flags are appropriate for the occasion.
Then there is a special flag song. This is the moment the American flag is honored by American Indians – in the way only Indians can do it.
It happened at a pow-wow at Oklahoma City University, March 27th. The Emcee reminded everyone that we honor the flag of “this great country,” and he directed everyone to the huge flag hanging from the west ceiling of the gymnasium where we were. Everyone turned toward the flag, and the singers began.
It is a solemn sound, the flag song. Slow, majestic, and powerful. Everyone knows it. Everyone respects it.
I understand why Indians honor the American flag: It is our mascot!
It is the token of the great power, the great strength – the strength that is our great White Father, who was greater than us.
We don’t admit it openly, but this is exactly what we are doing with the flag song.
No, it’s not the American government, or American politics, or American society that we honor. It is the deep power, the grand nobility of greatness itself. Indians know and feel this in the American flag.
It’s not the political parties we value. It’s certainly not the justice system, or capitalism, or the pollution of earth. It is not the destruction of natural beauty, the languishing of our people under government theft and abuse of our resources.
It is the glory of strength itself we see in the flag. We feel the power. That’s all. The raw strength.
Indians recognize strength. It is po-haw-cut, as the Comanche would say: Medicine. Power. It is America. We sing and dance to America. We honor America’s strength in every flag song at every pow-wow.
I can scarcely describe it to a non-Indian.
Indians don’t say it in words, yet it’s there, deep within us. We have a thing for that American flag.
Not only do we honor it with prayerful song, we wear it! American flag themes have been woven into our dance regalia for decades. Indians wear the flag in dance, in our cultural celebrations. It fascinates us. It is a sacred thing to us, not an article of daily dress.
And when Americans dress up like Indians, and use Indian images for their school teams, it’s really the same intuition. Most Americans have a deep appreciation for the awesome Indian warrior. He represents something very powerful to them – a natural strength, even savagery, which is dear to the heart of most every man. It’s a macho thing. It’s a warrior thing.
The professional protesters who decry Indian mascots are not warriors at all. Their psychological theory that Indians mascots degrade Indians shows little understanding of Indians or mascots. Many professional protesters have never really fought anything, never won anything, and really never lost anything. Therefore, they don’t know the real dynamic of the warrior experience. They don’t know what a mascot is. If they think Indian mascots are bad, they shouldn’t pledge allegiance to the American flag.
“I don’t do Flag songs for the American Flag,” an Indian recently wrote me. “I do songs for the eagle feather, for the Comanche flag and for the flags of other native nations. It is the same reason I haven’t recited the pledge of allegiance to the U.S. flag for the last 20 years. That would be the equivalent of a Jew saluting the swastika.”
The America government did not believe Indians should be annihilated. America even left us land for our “nations.” They declared us citizens in 1924. The U.S. government still recognizes the treaties it made with us.
I’ll do the flag song. And most Indians, in our heathenish way, offer the purest affection there is for Old Glory. We know its power. And grandeur.