PHIL WIELAND: Don't change team name, just show some respect

2013-05-17T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Don't change team name, just show some respectBy Phil Wieland nwitimes.com
May 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

As his name implies, Kenny Lone Eagle is a Native American. You know, the people we used to call Indians and whose butts John Wayne kicked in all those movies.

In fact, Lone Eagle's adoptive father Chief White Eagle used to be an actor in a lot of those movies and liked to say he was killed seven times by the Duke. A Gary native (and an American), Lone Eagle is retired and living in Knox, where the school sports teams are known as the Redskins.

Many Native Americans are offended by the term "Redskins," which they consider a racist reference to them, by schools and even professional teams. Lone Eagle, who said his heritage is Osage and Iroquois, is not bothered by the names or depictions like the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo logo.

"I was talking to a high school student on the (Knox) baseball team, and he asked me about changing the Redskins name," he said. "I told him at this point it is ridiculous to be changing the name."

Knox Superintendent A.J. Gappa said he wasn't aware of any move to change the Redskins name, and he certainly wasn't interested in bringing it up. Lone Eagle said the subject is on Facebook, and students and teachers are talking about it.

"I see no offense in it. I've been around a long time, and the Washington Redskins are one of my favorite teams," he said. (He didn't say if the other favorite teams are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Blackhawks.)

What does get his teepee in a bunch is how schools and professional teams use the Native American references but don't really respect Native Americans. For instance, the Washington Redskins don't have a real Native American in the native costume riding a horse on the sidelines.

At one time, the Redskins had an African American dressed up as the mascot on the horse, something that greatly offended Lone Eagle's uncle, a former professional wrestler known as Chief Lone Eagle. He was a world champion for several years, so apparently he didn't lose to many palefaces.

It bothers Kenny Lone Eagle more that his people have been "swept under the rug." He'd like to see history classes present a more accurate and complete portrayal of the Native American story so kids at Knox or Portage might understand why it's an honor to be named Indians or whatever.

It also would be nice to have a day to honor Native American culture the way so many other cultures get recognized for their contributions to the nation. Lone Eagle said he's not complaining or asking for anything except an acknowledgement of and respect for Native Americans for who they really are.

And they are not just targets for John Wayne.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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