Another Indian Mascot Falls in North Dakota; Chowanoke People in North Carolina Reclaim Land and Identity

From Wikimedia Commons
From Wikimedia Commons

The North Dakota University dropped the mascot name of “Fighting Sioux” in 2012, following a long and contentious debate about its offensive nature. Next up are changes to North Dakota  highway signs, which features the silhouette of a Native leader in headdress.

According to a blog called “The First Scout“:

In 1923, Red Tomahawk’s profile was chosen to mark all North Dakota state highways. It is displayed to show all travelers that a friendly Lakota was safely guiding them.

Who is this friendly Lakota, Red Tomahawk? He is best known as one of the Standing Rock police that shot and killed Sitting Bull.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation faced complaints and threats of lawsuits over the signage, according to a recent MPR story. Plans are moving forward to have new signs replace the Indian silhouette with the outline of the state of North Dakota. It will take 10 years to replace all the signs.

The Department of Transportation says the possible legal action had nothing to do with its decision to change the signs. According to the story, “the change was done to pay tribute to the agency’s 100th birthday next year and get in step with other states’ signage.”

Whether or not that is the real reason for the change, the change is a good one.

A Native Nation Some Thought Extinct Rises

The Chowanoke, an Algonquian people and original inhabitants of northeastern North Carolina, lost its last 30 acres of community-owned land in 1821. Its identity began to disappear with its land base. In the early 20th Century, local authorities even tried to have Indian people reclassified as black, another move to erase their history.

Yet some Chowanoke managed to maintain their Native identities.

Indian County Today ran a story Aug. 10 saying that Chowanoke were “considered by some experts to be extinct,” but descendants recently reorganized as a group. Duvonya Chavis and another tribal member bought 146 acres of land on the site of the old reservation with the hopes of reviving the nation’s traditions and culture.

According to the article:

By maintaining its own property, Chavis now hopes to reinforce Chowanoke tribal identity among other descendants.

“One of the things that is very important for us as a tribe, is to have that land base because it is historical, and because this is actually the area that was assigned to us after the war in 1676, and I think when you have a reservation, at least the outside community will acknowledge that you are Indian,” Chavis said. “Once that reservation is gone, it’s almost like you have assimilated into society and you are no longer considered Indian. You are no longer called Indian once you lose your land.”

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