My newest piece for Fusion: Appropriating Native American Imagery Honors No One but the Prejudice

Artwork courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz of


I was a sophomore in high school, about 15 years old, when a rather hostile group of cheerleaders and football players cornered me, yelling, as I sat on a bench in the quad between classes. “Don’t you have school pride?” a cheerleader shouted. “You should feel proud! We’re honoring your people!” one football player hollered.

I was the only Native American (as far as I knew) at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, California. Irvine is a planned city in Southern California and one of the safest cities in the United States, but I didn’t feel safe that day.

I had met one-on-one with the principal, my guidance counsellor, a few teachers and several students to share my negative feelings toward our school’s mascot – an anonymous Native American “warrior” with long, flowing, jet-black hair, a large nose and huge muscles. I guess I thought if I made it known that I felt appropriating Native American imagery was offensive, they’d stop. I was outnumbered, though, and my personal feelings didn’t matter. But that’s the thing: As Native people, especially as urban Natives (what we Indigenous people living in urban centers call ourselves), we are almost always outnumbered. So, we go unnoticed and unheard. Our opinions never really matter.

Students wore goofy, cartoonish costumes of our mascot (and his equally tasteless “warrior princess” girlfriend) at pep rallies and games. The pair would dance and do occasional acrobatic moves, as they made their grand entrance to the deafening sounds of the school’s marching band, playing the quintessential Hollywood fight song that, for me at least, conjures up images of a scene from an old Western movie: “savage” Indians on horseback approaching a village of settlers…Uh-oh, there must be trouble.

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First Nations Performers Open 2010 Winter Olympics

Aboriginal dance groups performed during the opening ceremony

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Canada’s Indigenous communities helped open the 2010 Winter Olympics Friday night. Aboriginal performers danced during the entire march of nations for the games (which have been dedicated to luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of the country of Georgia, who died on impact in a horrific crash on the sliding track during a practice run at Whistler).

The excitement of the opening ceremony sharply contrasted the grief that many felt from the tragedy that occurred earlier in the day. There were more than 50,000 ticketholders in the stadium during the first ever Olympic opening or closing ceremony held indoors.

Approximately 2,500 athletes from 82 countries are participating in the games. First-time Winter Olympic medal contenders include the Cayman Islands, Columbia, Ghana, Montenegro, Pakistan, Peru, and Serbia.