Open Letter to To Suzan Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse

To Suzan Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse:

When I was a child, I had the opportunity to live in the Cleveland Ohio area.

Every time I would attend a Cleveland Indians game, I was in awe of the mascot, the Indian Chief.

When I saw the Cleveland Indian Mascot, I had a sense of pride and I felt a sense of respect for this larger than life Native American. He was my mascot, my official representative on the battlefield of baseball and I was proud of him. He made me feel like I was in a time warp and I was somehow related to the strong and mighty Indian people. I loved him and his imagery and everything about him and what he stood for. The Cleveland Indian was an ideal and a vision and he was a part of me.

That is why I cannot understand why anyone thinks the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians, or any other Native American Sports Mascot Icon is racist or demeaning. To think that way is to be totally separated and isolated from the culture, minds, and hearts of mainstream Americans. The meaning of a word or a thing has everything to do with how it is understood and used and my Cleveland Indian was a force for good.

The Redskins, Indians, Braves – these are icons of strength and respect. They give us a glimpse into the history of a great people and culture that existed before Columbus discovered America. They are inclusive as the Redskin, Indian, Brave is elevated to a position of prominence as lead icon of a professional team.

Never once did I think those icons are racist or disrespectful.
When I see them I have always felt pride, reverence, and respect.
When I was young, these very symbols were the driving force for my curiosity and enthusiasm to learn about Indians, see how different each tribe is, and the rich history of each. The Iroquois, Inuit, Algonquin, Mohegan, and literally hundreds of distinct and different tribes with their own rich history and culture. I credit this interest when I was a child because of my interaction with the Cleveland Indian.

What has happened today with the US Patent & Trademark office saddens me.

I wish I could better understand why you both hate these iconic symbols of strength and respect that I grew up with.
Why are you trying to wipe these names and symbols out as if they are some sort of anathema? I wish I could understand why you see these icons as disrespectful and bigoted.

I always thought that racism and bigotry was something that you feel, which is communicated outward through your use of a word or symbol.

Millions of people in America feel love, respect, strength, and pride towards Indians which was heightened or influenced by the sports mascots.

How can respect and love for Indians and the Native American culture, combined with the respect for the position of those symbols atop my sports team in any way be misconstrued as racism or bigotry?

I would like to ask you both, Suzan Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse to keep moving forward to root out racism and disrespect if it exists towards native peoples, I am in to root out hatred and bigotry, but please don’t force your misunderstanding of these symbols on me.

I guess I have just one final question, is there any way “you approve of” where we can use these great symbols of strength, honor, and respect for our teams?

Do they need to look different?

Do they need to have different names?

In my quest to be culturally sensitive, I want to know how we can keep these great icons associated with our sports teams while appealing to the cultural sensitivities of the few who seem to be upset over them.

I have Italian blood in me. Italians in America were brutalized and discriminated against back in the 1900’s by the Irish. We were called Goombas and Degos – those are the n-words you could use to talk about Italians back then.

However, I am so past that.

If someone made a sports team today called the Cleveland Goombas and the icon was a fat Italian twirling a pizza, I would be happy and proud of it. I even sometimes joke about myself being a fat Goomba who likes to eat pizza, and it’s true I am slightly overweight and I love pizza. And as long as everyone is looking at the fat Goomba with heartfelt love and joy, I am happy about it.

I just don’t understand why you and Amanda have such issues with the Indian icons that most Americans look at with heartfelt love.

Instead of hurting us and causing us to dislike you, by running rug-shot through our Patent & Trademark office, why not try to talk to us and get us to understand why you feel as strongly as you do – build consensus if you will? Maybe we will come to agree with you or you will come to understand and agree with us.

Or maybe not, but if your whole life’s mission is based on attacking and removing mythical racist objects, and that’s how you measure the value of your life, then may God help you because you truly need it.


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