The spirits of the lost Nyack Indians have spoken. Their name, the Nyack Indians, should remain forever, at least in Nyack, New York.
Today’s inhabitants of Nyack also let their sentiments be known loudly and clearly: they want the Nyack Indian name to stay too. They all said so at a public forum in the Nyack public high school auditorium on January 13.
Over 200 people gathered in front of a table of 19 school and community officials. All but six in the public audience were in favor of keeping the name and logo. Of course, four of the eight school board members, who will be making the final decision about the Nyack Indian logo, were absent.
In the audience there were three Nyack liberals against the logo, and three "imported" ethnic activists there to make their usual, disproportionately publicized protests. These three were not from Nyack.
One of the activists was a 6'4 classic looking Lakota Indian, Tiokasin Veaux, who spoke his piece in his native language. When asked to translate, he said little of relevance to the circumstances. One of the women with him was Amanda Holmes, who calls herself Katsis Tohkwido. She said she was Mohawk, from Pleasantville, NY. She does not appear to be Indian, but she spoke some Algonquian. Maybe she and the Lakota thought their language would put an Indian hex on the audience.
In English, Holmes said she was afraid to speak to the audience because she felt she was unwelcome. After her negative remarks, someone in the audience did shout, "Go home!" Then in classical activist rhetoric, she answered, "I am home."
Veaux and Holmes (a journalist) are the producers of First Voices, which aired on WBAI radio, New York.
The third activist, Shelia Hamanaka (Japanese-American?), made a pitch for cartoon activism. Hamanaka is an illustrator, and displayed her talent on a shirt she wore, heralding "Nyack Whites." (Not very original) She drew a fat, bald, slobby white man in a t-shirt, with a beer in his hand, as if that were the converse of the Nyack Indian warrior image. She had even less effect than Veaux and Holmes.
However, the three activists were faithfully attended outside by Lucy Yang, ABC reporter for the 11 o’clock news (WABC, ch.7). Fortunately, her report was not as "liberal" as we might have expected. But just the activists’ presence was enough to be given first place in media, a prestige certainly not enjoyed by any conservative Indians, or even conservative Asian Americans.
Interestingly, an elder Italian American Korean veteran made a powerful response to Hamanaka’s "Nyack Whites" antic. John Lodico, decorated soldier of the 2nd Division infantry, and long time political personality in Rockland County, New York, brought before the audience his army division flag.
It was a dramatic gesture. He brought the flag up to the table of officials, ask them to help him hold it, then folded the beautiful 2nd Division flag: In its center is the red Indian head wearing a war bonnet, on a white background, surrounded by a field of royal blue.
Hard to argue with! Anyone with any pride at all was silent in admiration.
Indeed, United States Army insignias present a scintillating array of Indian heads, arrow heads, eagles, thunderbirds, knives, and buffalo. The Indian warrior image is a one of the strongest psychological concepts in the American war machine.
And this is just the infantry, to say nothing of the other branches. There’s the UH-1 Iroquois helicopter, the UH-60 Blackhawk, CH-47 Chinook, OH-58(D) Kiowa Warrior, AH-64 Apache, RAH-66 Comanche, and the OV-1 Mohawk airplane.
Chief Warrant Officer Scott E. Moore, Sr., US Army helicopter pilot says, "Every soldier that’s gone airborne learns in school to yell GERONIMO!! when he jumps." It isn’t to degrade Indians. It’s "to get up the nerve to jump out the door!"
So Nyack High School wants to train young people to be brave and courageous? So they want to use the Indian warrior image for the power it evokes? So they want to join in the great American military tradition of strength through "Indian power?"
So be it! After all, West Point Military Academy is just 20 miles up the river (the Hudson). What a perfectly appropriate ambition for young Nyack "Indians."
Lodico is an alumnus (’46) of Nyack High School, and along with all the other alumni, wants very much to keep the 70 year old tradition.
Well, they’ve certainly won the first battle in this new Nyack war for survival.