Why do people still want to use my culture as their mascot?

Star Diavolikis, Columnist

I am so tired of having to defend my culture from those who only want to reap benefits from it while simultaneously refusing to address or help with any Indigenous issues.

A recent bill passed through the Washington state house that bans non-tribal Washington schools to use Native American imagery as their mascots, logos and team names. The only exception is schools nearby or on tribal land that got approval from the local tribe. A lot of people are upset about this bill and wish it did not pass.

The catch, though, is that these people are not Native American. These are people who are unaffected by the imagery, and see no harm in it as it does not affect them or their background. KIMA Action News reported on the passing of this bill, and the Facebook comments were simply outrageous.

“Bet they’ll complain when they’ve cancelled themselves and there’s not a single building or statue left to honor their heritage!” a comment read. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaw pooooooor whittle guys. They get offended super easily,” another comment read.

On a side note, there is a great difference between an educational building, memorial or statue compared to a school’s mascot.

Why do they still want to use my culture as their symbols in society, like Native people are their made-up character that they can use as they please? Why do our feelings not matter in these situations? Why do others get to decide if we can be offended or not?

Excuses commenters provided revolved around the idea that using our image as their mascot is a sign of respect and is educating the public on Native Americans, and that we should be grateful. In short, no. I do not feel any respect given from a kid in a headdress and red face paint doing war whoops. I do not feel any respect given from the band who mimics tribal drumming as their “Warriors” run out from the locker room.

I also do not feel a graphic of a chief provides any sort of educational information.

I have been exposed to offensive imagery since I could first remember, and I have been defending my culture since I was 12, if not younger. Why has society not learned and evolved from this?

I understand some may simply not relate to the concept of having their sacred culture be appropriated in everyday life, which can be a leading reason as to why people do not understand why we are bothered by this. An example could be Celtic heritage being appropriated with the basketball team, or stereotypes of Irish people being posted everywhere during St. Patrick’s Day.

However, I will say this. Simply because you are an unaffected and unbothered party in this situation does not give you the right to speak over the voices that are affected and directly involved.

I do not dictate what you find offensive, so why do you get to dictate what I can be offended by?