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We are a concerned group of American Indian Virginia Citizens that want to address issues that we feel are detrimental to the health and well being of our heritage and culture in the State of Virginia. We felt long ago that it was necessary to form this group so that we would have a stronger voice in the community and to offer our services as well.
We have been the Virginia Chapter of AIM for 14 years. We have on Many occasions tried to present our views on the mascot issues but have been denied any acknowledgement what so ever. We presented a Statement of Purpose to the Virginia Council on Indians in 1999 with regards to issues we felt were important in our state. The main issue being the use of Indian mascots.
Our core group consists of Rabiah Yazzie Seminole, Thomas Lewis, Ellery Pennock, Kathy Morning Star and Mike Wicks. Kathy and Mike are also on the Board of Directors of American Indian Cultural Support (AICS) a national organization. Kathy and Mike have both been active in AIM for many years.
An issue that goes in hand strongly with education, is encouraging and embracing diversity. This must be implemented correctly in order for all people to truly learn. Understanding is the key, and knowing that perpetuating myths, stereotypes and misinformation about any race results in negating and denigrating a people.
We believe that the State of Virginia wants to be a step ahead in education and programs made available to our young people. That is one of the reasons we decided to make a statement on our position regarding these issues. A major part of education comes in the form of erasing all forms of racism from the face of the earth. Unfortunately, one form runs rampant in this State.
This is an issue that we brought before the Virginia Council on Indians in 1999 at one of the council meetings.
Many people do not see it as racism, but as honoring Indian people.
The assumption that it is okay to use American Indian People or our sacred objects as mascots for schools or anywhere is blatantly wrong.
Imagine being a young American Indian person attending a school that uses an Indian as its mascot. You are American Indian, the football team is playing against another school. You go to the game and upon arrival to the opposing teams school, there are effigies of Indians hanging in the trees ,some burnt, some with signs saying "kill the Indians...beat the Indians" . Not a healthy environment for a young person to grow up in. It is also detrimental to youth of all cultural backgrounds....lending to the thought that it is acceptable to use racial stereotyping in this day and time. It perpetuates racism and in the learning years of school sets the precedence that it is acceptable to use racist figures, slogans, and names. This is not what the youth of today should be learning in their formative years.
If the effigies were black with signs saying "kill the blacks" ,or the Jews, or the whites,it would not be tolerated and immediate action would be taken as it would be considered racist and hateful. Because it is. It has been proven that psychological damage is being done to Indian children by this type of behavior. These things have happened and are happening to Indian children. We are a race of people, not objects. There are 65-70 schools in the State of Virginia using Indian mascots. We need the support and help of educators to let all people know this is not honoring us, it is demeaning and offensive to us.
We were very disappointed with the results of our meeting in 1999 with the Virginia Council on Indians. We were in hopes that the issue would be taken seriously and work would begin towards eliminating mascots in the schools. We want to work with the Council on this issue to bring it closer to fruition and are all ready to do this. We are in hopes that the letters and faxes supporting the removal of Indian mascots that are being sent to all schools in the state of Virginia will aid in the discontinuance of Indian mascots. We also want to see the removal of the huge statue of the brave at Braves Stadium in Richmond Virginia.
We will continue in our efforts to see an end put to the use of American Indian People and our sacred objects as mascots.
Rabiah Yazzie Seminole
Virginia Chapter AIM
Kathy Morning Star
Among some of our concerns and foremost in importance are people representing themselves as “authorities” on American Indian Culture. Some even going so far as to claim that they are American Indian. These folks are being paid through State and Federal funding (allotted for school programs) to go into schools presenting quasi educational programs. They perpetuate stereotypes and myths, misinforming students as well as the schools facility and staff. They have no formal education in American Indian History, Literature, Art, Government, Culture, or Heritage. This dilutes the positive programs that are done within the school system by qualified individuals. Many presenting programs have only just discovered they may have some ancestry and feel this qualifies them to go into the schools representing Indian people.
There are many Indian people that do not have a formal education or a teaching certificate. However they have lived a traditional life and have their family history to back them up. They can offer invaluable information about the way of life, language and things that happen on a daily basis through their own life experiences on and off the reservations. These folks are an asset to the education of our children.
In the 26 years of its formal history, the American Indian Movement has witnessed a great many changes. Formal history, because for 500 years, the movement has exsisted without a name, and the members of today's AIM never fail to remember all those who have traveled on before, having given their talent and lives for the survial of the people.
At the core of the movement is Indian leadership under the direction of NeeGawNwayWeeDun, Clyde H. Bellecourt. Making steady progress, the movement has transformed policy making into programs and organizations that have served Indian people in many communities. These policies have consistently been made in consultation with spiritual leaders and elders. And, the success of these efforts is indisputable, but perhaps even greater than the accomplishments is the vision that define what AIM stands for.
Indian people were never intended to survive the settlement of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere, our Turtle Island. With the strength of a spiritual base, AIM has been able to clearly articulate the claims of Native Nations and has had the will and intellect to put forth those claims.
The movement was founded to turn the attention of Indian people toward a renewal of spirituality which would impart the strength of resolve needed to reverse the ruinious policies of the United States, Canada, and other colonialist governments of Central and South America.
The heart of AIM is spirituality and a belief in the connectedness of all Indian people.
During the past twenty-six years, the American Indian Movement has organized communities and created opportunites for people across the Americas and Canada. AIM is headquarted in Minneapolis with many chapters in many cites and Indian Nations.
AIM has on repeated occasions successfully brought suit against the federal government to protect the rights of Native Nations guarenteed in treaties, sovereignty, the United States Constitution, and the laws.
The philosophy of self-determination that the movement is built upon is deeply rooted in traditional spirituality, culture, language and history. AIM develops partnerships to address the common needs of the people as well as to ensure the fulfillment of treaties made with the United States. This is the clear vision of the American Indian Movement.
It has not been an easy path. Spiritual leaders and elders foresaw the testing of AIM's strength and stamina. Doubters, infiltrators, those who wished they were in the leadership, and those who didn't want to be, but wanted to tear down and take away have had their turns. No one, inside or outside the movement has so far been able to destroy the will and strength of AIM's solidarity. Men and women, adults and children are continously urged to stay strong spiritually, and to always remember that the movement is greater than the accomplishments of its leaders.
Inherent in the spiritual heart of AIM is knowing that the work goes on because the need goes on.
Indian people live on Mother Earth with the clear understanding that no one will assure the coming generations except ourselves. No one from the outside will do this for us. And no one person among us can do it all for us, either. Self-determination must be the goal of all work. Solidarity must be the first and only defense of the members.
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