I used to live in Wisconsin, which is a beautiful and friendly state. I was pregnant with my second child, and my friend, also pregnant with her second, made plans with me to visit the local Native American Museum. Sadly, soon after my friend was put on full bed rest. I offered to take both our children, plus a neighbor’s child also wanted to tag along. Rich, the husband of my friend, offered to come along and drive. He figured three kids and my pregnancy hormones, combined with plans for dinner at Chuck E Cheese, meant another adult was needed.
My friend and I had raised our children in what we thought was a “correct” manner. People should be judged by their actions and not by a stereotype. There are very incorrect and insulting names for most minority groups that should never be used. We weren’t even all that sure how we felt about Columbus. Still, to be safe, in the car Rich and I went over a bit about Native Americans. The preferred term was “Native American”. “Indian” was simply a mistake, and an insult to our good Oneida neighbors. The children, three little girls, looked good as gold as they nodded in understanding.
We pulled up to the museum, and two handsome young men were painting the front. They had long braided hair, but were shirtless and dressed in simple jeans. Rich and I released the girls from the back of the mini van. The three girls started jumping up and down and shouting “It’s INDIANS! It’s real INDIANS!”. One started to do a “whoop whoop” rendition of a dance she could only have learned from a 1950’s Western. The other two ran up to the young men and were “Can I touch you?”
At this point Rich turned to me and said “We could just get back into the van and drive off and pretend we don’t know them.” I was in horrified shock, until I rushed up and apologized. I explained I really had explained that they were not “Indians” and did not know why they were behaving like this. Rich and I somehow calmed the girls down and took them into the museum. One child, not my own (but trust me my daughter did equally horrible things), asked a guide why they didn’t live in teepees. The guide explained that the tribe had never lived in that type of dwelling, and that now she lived in a house. Child explained if she could she would live in a teepee. Scalping was also brought up (Rich and I never to our knowledge even mentioned scalping to our children). Scalping was approved of by all three girls, and they were much disappointed there were no scalps on display.
We finally could take no more. A drive around the area, to point out the lovely homes the Native Americans now lived in, was a flop. The girls could see no reason if you were a “Native American” (threats of no Chuck E. Cheese had ended the work “Indian” use) you would not want to live in a teepee, scalp people, ride a horse, and cook over an open fire. Rich pulled the minivan into a station where the girls, forgetting the Chuck E. Cheese threat, were thrilled that an “Indian” was filling our tank. The attendant looked at one of the children and said “Your parents should have taught you better” while glaring at me. The child replied, “Oh they aren’t married!”
So, Rich and I looked like the unwed parents of three children with horrible upbringings, soon to bring a fourth into this world. Chuck E. Cheese was a relief. The pizza that tastes much like the box it comes in, was comfort food for two parents that could not think how they went so wrong. As the children ran around, screaming in the ball pit and raising heck, Rich commented he was sorry he could not buy me a beer, or two, since I was pregnant.
The day after the trip the young girls all demanded bows and arrows. We even set up some old tent poles and draped a sheet to make a teepee. Frankly, being pregnant makes “that will keep them out of our hair” win out over political correctness. The girls did refer to themselves as “Native Americans” as they whooped around the yard with feathers stuck in their flowing blonde tresses.
I would like to assure everyone that all three young girls grew up to be tolerant, caring, respectful, giving, and compassionate young women.
- The Native American Way (skedazzles.com)
- Beyond Buckskin Boutique: The Native American Marketplace (theurbn.com)
- Oregon Board of Education votes to ban Native American mascots (oregonlive.com)