Removing Indian names from public use does not show respect or honor to Indians. We honor people by remembering them, not by forgetting them.
But the school district board of Nyack, New York wants to remove the Nyack Indian name, the name of a people who disappeared 350 years ago from its high school logo, "the Nyack Indians." This ritzy Hudson River community on the northwestern edge of New York City is in the straights of an ideological crisis.
But the board is not in touch with its community, nor the Indian people of America, at least of all the spirits of the Nyack. This case could become one of the most important in the whole "Indian Removal" program across America.
The Nyack Indian Removers, mostly white people, think removing the logo shows respect to all Indian people. So, will they stop at the school logo? What about the name of their community college, and the name of the town itself? Will there be no public memory of the Nyack people?
In November, 2002, the Nyack Board of Education president, Don Hammond, said "Let's make sure we are respectful to Native Americans."
Shouldn't Indians have a say in that?
I'm only one Indian, from Oklahoma, but I sure don't want to see the Nyack removed. The Nyack Board can honor the Nyack Indians by remembering them. The Nyack aren't here anymore. The memory of their name lies in the hands of the Board. Removing the Nyack name is like defacing their grave site. Isn't this sacrilege?
New York State Education Commissioner Richard Mills advised the 142 schools in New York that use American Indian icons or names was a "barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community." What's the evidence of this? In Nyack, there are no Indians to be offended. Mills is merely parroting a United States Commission on Civil Rights statement, and trying to apply it in a vacuum.
The Journal News (Randi Weiner) reported that Hammond encouraged the Nyack Board and community to discuss the issue, but the Board may have forgotten what the word "discussion" means. There's supposed to be equal presentation of both sides of the issue.
Add another critical element in the picture. The New Jersey Italian U.S. Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr., is pushing the most aggressive anti-mascot bill of all, H.R.5487. He wants to pay American schools to remove their Indian mascots, an offer schools can't refuse.
Che cosa ¨¨ questo? L¡¯ironia della sorte! It was an Itallian who first encountered the Nyack. Giovanni da Verrazano, explored today's New York Bay area in 1542. The Nyack Indians were apparently a Hudson River Algonquian folk, who lived on fish and oysters in the summer. Nay-ak in an Algonquian dialect means "fishing place."
They were apparently a small, politically insignificant clan. The next thing we know is the Dutch West India Company "acquired" their Hudson shores (Bay Ridge, formerly called Yellow Hook) in 1652. After that point, the Nyack Indians evidently were absorbed into other tribes in the area, or moved elsewhere.
Now, Pallone is a certainly a good man, and a friend of Indians. But he's ill-advised on mascots. It's the influence of his California Indian intern Mark Lebeau. This has led to the piquant irony that a modern Italian would want to remove an Indian name of a people that a 16th century Italian explorer "discovered."
And the Board is groping for justification in removing the Nyack Indians. Mills sought support of an impoverished, isolated hillbilly mountain folk known as the Jackson Whites. The Jackson Whites have recently decided to call themselves Ramapo Indians (because they live in the Ramapough Mountains, and now believe they have some Algonquin blood mixed somewhere in their mulatto Dutch-Negro blood). The Board thought their support was important.
But the Nyack Board here falls prey to socialist corruption. "Indian tribes" are suddenly appearing all over the country, wanting federal recognition so they can have casinos. Thus were born today's Connecticut "Indians." It doesn't matter whether the people are actually Indian. What matters is the federal government (the Clintonized DNC) sees multi-million dollar potential in Indian casinos. It's all about payoffs. If the circumstances are right, the government will grant any "Indians" recognition.
The Nyack Board ought to realize what's behind many of these Indian issues. I'm sure the Board is sincere, just trying to keep up with the political trends in the country, and to avoid being sued.
But, they should just remember: forgetting Indians doesn't honor Indians.