Just a Biloxi girl….Who has opened her eyes.

Wow.


Sometimes, that’s really all I have to offer in a conversation.  Just… “…wow…“.  That word has pretty much summed up the last two weeks for me.


First, let me tell you a little bit about me.  I am a graduate of Biloxi High (C/O 2004).  I have lived here, in beautiful Biloxi, Mississippi all but 2 months of my life (and I’ll be 30 in November).  This beautiful city is where I grew up.  Where almost every single one of my fondest memories was made.  This is where I created, and birthed my 3 beautiful children.  This amazing city is where I will raise them.  And I will most likely live out my remaining days here.  My pride, and my love for the coast, runs deep.  Very deep, in my blood.  My great-grandparents (Needy Blunt and Ruth) are of Native American descent.  Cherokee and Seminole, I’ve been told.  It is unfortunate that I was still too young to learn much from them (and to be quite honest, I wasn’t interested), as my mawmaw passed when I was 8, and my pawpaw 3 years later when I was 11.  I still miss them, and think about them, every single day, though.  They lived in Biloxi, and were very prominent people here along the coast.  Building, chartering boats, owning property-  the Stanley name still stands strong.


Now, I know I will probably get a lot of flack for this blog.  And I may even lose a few “friends” on Facebook who still cannot see the truth.  But hey, sometimes you just have to “let it go“.  I certainly will not lose any sleep at night.


Initially, my “wow” focused on an “outsider” complaining about the Biloxi High School headdress that the marching band wore when they performed in DC.  I mean, how DARE anyone take a stab at my alma mater’s choice of uniform or school name.  Yeah, I was mad and offended.  Why?  Because…how DARE someone who isn’t from Biloxi, criticize Biloxi!


All of our opinions were the same.  We were “honoring” The Biloxi, that settled here and is the reason the city is named what it’s named. We “felt pride” while wearing the uniforms, or while watching the band perform.  Now, there is no doubt what-so-ever that Biloxi alumni are proud of where they hail from.  This is very, very evident based on the number of signatures our very own petition: 2,103 signatures!  Most of them, alumni of Biloxi High School.  We were winning.  Victory was declared with 2,103 signatures.  We HAD won.  There is no doubt that most of us truly felt that we were honoring The Biloxi and our own (no matter what percent) Native American lineage.  No matter how misplaced that justification was.  We were standing behind it.


Numerous discussions about the headdress happened on the alumni pages- both for the school, and the one created by fellow alumni.  No one could figure out why anyone would be offended by something we felt was beautiful and dear to our hearts and our “tradition”.  A lot of us, myself included, kept using words like “heritage” and “tradition”. In fact, I think most of our posts and messages back and forth, were littered with nothing more than those two words, and some “my so-and-so is Native American” justification.  I was quoted, in one of the articles from the opposing side, as having said “If in fact the Tunica-Biloxi tribe has an issue with our headdress, we will come to a compromise”.  And that’s EXACTLY what happened.


Tunica-Biloxi has a voice, despite some claims that the blood line is more extinct than T-Rex.  Their voice is none other than a Tunica-Biloxi tribe member, Jean-Luc Pierite.  His response to the Sun Herald (and a radio show– skip to 31:25 to hear about the headdresses) about the issue really opened my eyes.  It was at this time that I started to question whether or not we, as Biloxi alumni and/or residents, truly had the best of intentions.  Some alumni felt that this was the tribe’s way of saying “We don’t care-  it’s not offensive.  Do what you do.”  Wait, what?  Seriously?  How did you get that out reading this article?  Jean-Luc said:

“The headdress worn by the Biloxi High School band is an ill-informed costume-design choice.

That said, our communities are faced with such challenges that if a group of outsiders would parade in mockery under the guise of honor, then it wouldn’t make much difference.”


Are you people even reading the same article I’m reading?  Maybe you are reading it in a different language…that no one else speaks.  I don’t know, and I honestly don’t care.  I guess the only thing that stuck out to some was “it wouldn’t make much difference” and decided that this was approval and permission to continue the out-dated “tradition” of using a race of people as a mascot.  He said mockery, people.  MOCKERY.  This is the truest, most heartfelt opinion about the Tribe’s feelings that he could give.  The fact is:  we are not honoring them.  At all.  Period.  End of discussion.  There are ifs, ands, or buts.  It’s a done deal.  All these years, it’s been viewed as nothing but a mockery.  And an imaginary honorary tradition.  It was quite clear to me what this article said, even if just in the undertones of it.


Some also felt that his article was an attack directed towards Deloria Many Grey Horses, who originated the petition to change the uniform of the marching band.  By the end of his article, he suggest that people educate themselves on his tribe.  Many people thought he was directing that to the opposition.  Wrong.  So. Very. Wrong.  His target was none other than those in favor of supporting the headdress and mascot.  Those who claimed it to be “heritage”, “tradition” and “in honor of”.  Those who claimed “honor” then in the next sentence said something disparaging towards a Native American culture.  Oh, okay.  So it’s okay to make a “joke” about something, but it’s not okay when those you are joking about take offense?  Right….


Deloria Many Grey Horses has a picture on several of these articles.  It is of her, holding a sign that says “#notyourmascotbiloxi”.  Many of the alumni, sadly including myself, took a stab at this.  Many negative remarks were made.  Things like “Of course she’s not.  She’s not even American.” or “She is psycho.  Of COURSE she’s not our mascot.  Who is stupid enough to want her as one?


Many people felt that Deloria has an agenda.  A personal vendetta, for no good reason.  I, too, felt that she was just attacking the school because she could.  I did extensive research on Deloria prior to Jean-Luc’s article.  I did even more after.  What did I find?  I found that Deloria, in fact, DOES have an agenda.  GASP!  Of course she does. Her agenda is this:  to bring an end to the racism and discrimination towards Native People.  Towards ALL people.  She aims to educate the populace about the negative effects these types of incidents have on our youth.  OUR YOUTH.  Not just Native American youth.  Deloria is focused on the world-  not just certain parts of it.  Upon my research of Deloria, I found that she has been proactive for many years, helping to end the injustice Native American’s face.

“Injustice?  WHAT INJUSTICE?!  We aren’t discriminating against Natives!  WE ARE HONORING THEM!”


Okay.  Let me put it to you like this.  We know racism is alive and thriving in the US.  We know that Mississippi is still regarded as a racist state (and that was painfully made obvious by some of the uneducated comments directed towards alumni on some of the articles written).  You see it every day on your news feed.  Ferguson, Baltimore-  police brutality.  It’s there.  Every single day.   You see it, so you know it exists.  That’s the problem here.  Most people don’t see the discrimination towards the Native American populace.  So because it’s not seen, it means it doesn’t exist.  Because you don’t discriminate against any one person, or group of people, does NOT mean that others feel the way you do.  That is a sorely delusional way of thinking.  Try using a bit of logic.  And a LOT of compassion and understanding.

Deloria is a powerful voice of the Native American people, where most others are too afraid of have one.  She has won numerous awards for her activities in trying to better the world we live in and educate the youth about the misappropriation of the Native culture.  She has been extremely polite and diplomatic regarding the issue, despite the numerous hurdles she had to cross, one of which was having to PROVE she was a real person because a Biloxi alumni reported her for hate speech, and for being fake because of her Native American name. She has had every right to be mean and nasty to those who have messaged her or made direct comments to her.  She’s done very well, keeping her composure.  Others, well, that’s a different story.  But those select few who took it too far, did so of their own accord.  Deloria did not send them to do such.  They took it upon themselves.  Deloria has a good heart and a beautiful soul.  She is genuinely an incredible person with a phenomenal vision of bettering the world we live in, and providing a more understanding and accepting world for our youth.  I reached out to Deloria, only to be greeted with open arms and understanding of my initial position on the matter.  I am forever thankful that she took the time to read my message and respond to it.

How do so many of you STILL not see a problem here?

 I have done much soul-searching after Jean-Luc’s article.  My eyes were opened and my opinion was changed.  I am appalled that some of you (as in BHS alumni) continue on like nothing is wrong.  How the rest of you continue to walk blindly towards a short-lived “victory”, simply because you misunderstood someone’s intentions and words.  I am disgusted in myself, for even taking part in the support of the mascot and headdress, knowing what I know now.  Knowing how the Tunica-Biloxi tribe feels.  Knowing that they do not find anything honorable about being mocked and discriminated against.

I think some of you may need to do the same.  Truly educate yourself on the Tunica-Biloxi tribe.  Educate yourselves on the day-to-day issues Native Americans face.  Educate yourselves before opening your mouths and commenting on something that you have no grasp of.  Don’t continue to be a part of the problem. I encourage you to find ways to be part of the solution.  Not just for Native Americans, but for all walks of life.  Find a way to educate others on the perils of discrimination and the horrible effects of racism.  Find a way to be proactive in the direction this country is taking.


Please understand that I am still proud of the school I hail from.  But not because of the mascot or because of the name of our sports team.  I am a proud graduate of an incredible institution with amazing teachers, amazing alumni, and an incredible atmosphere in general.  No matter what we are called.  “Indians” or “Schuckers” (and what a God awful name THAT is!) – our name does not denote the accomplishments we’ve made as a school.  It is our determination and love for fellow alumni that has brought us to where we are today.


“What’s in a name?  That which we would call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” – Juliet Capulet


Well, hello, Shakespeare.  Nice to see that some of your wisdom still applies today.

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10 Comments

  1. Dear Girl Who Opened Her Eyes! I want to thank you for your courage for finding your voice by being open in a closed minded world.

    You are correct Deloria Many Grey Horses is a beautiful person, she comes from a beautiful family. It is also true she is an amazing person who works tirelessly to open minds and pull people out of their comfort zone in relation to mutual respect and support of each other, as we are all related.
    Thank you my relative for seeing a world view, listening to another world view, and understanding it as well.

    Your bravery is commended and your voice is heard. Thank you for telling your truth.
    In so much beauty… Gail Woodside

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and reply with such kind words. I hope others, especially those in opposition, read this and come to the same realization that I have. Several have messaged me over Facebook about this, and have expressed some desire to be educated and have their eyes opened, too.

      Deloria and Kayla know that I am willing to help out where I can, in my community and in others.

      This has been a very rewarding and humbling experience. Again, thank you for your time and your encouraging words.

      Like

  2. When we share our views…our perceptions, we begin to attain a new higher perspective together…we are all connected…all one human family…thank you for sharing your journey with us…I become aware and I make different choices….Sasa

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you can believe, so can others. We must all grow to understand one another and respect each others ways of life. You’re not the only one that had closed eyes and a closed heart. There are Native American Indian Peoples who have embraced assimilation, colonization and genocide to this day, thus embracing the mockery by supporting such racist mascots. I was one of those who had little interest in being Indian, because of assimilation, colonization and genocide. I’m grateful for my awaking and very proud to be a Native American Indian. The world is coming back into balance and harmony and those that continue to live the lie have a hard time understanding change is coming in a big way. Very BIG WAY. I just a simple Dine’ from New Mexico who motivates and advocates for all Native American Indian’s issues: Liberty, freedom, self-determination, dignity, honor, our language, our culture, our way of life and our land. We can coexist as long as others understand the lie about this country and how is was stolen. I’m grateful for your awaking. Live long and prosper.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Greetings JABG, glad to see your enlightenment unfolding in a sincere way and your desire to share that with others. I understand your comments about the intent not being offensive to begin with…it’s understandable if you have never experienced racism, ridicule and discrimination of your culture or faith to the extent Native Americans have, it would never dawn on you that something you hold so dear and special could be viewed as offensive. Our tribe, the Tunica-Biloxi, has a history of bias, abuse, discrimination, even murderous assault by outsiders towards our people…the stories are very sad. But despite all of that negativity, our people continue to live and thrive and appreciate what has always been very precious to us about our culture. Native Americans are not immune to bias, judgmental, abusive behavior within their ranks, either, but the real lesson here, as you indicate is also Deloria’s intent, is to educate and enlighten everyone that such behavior is never appropriate no matter the subject or source. Until we accept what is good and beautiful in every culture that exists on the planet, we are bound to continue to make the mistakes of those who came before us….it’s time we all learn and live the lesson…respect for all peoples, no matter their color, faith, ethnicity. For myself, I don’t think it’s appropriate to “use” an ethnic group as a ‘mascot.’ It really feels demeaning…and suffocating. Thank you for your words. Wishing you blessings now and always. Council Member Brenda Lintinger, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of LA.

    Liked by 1 person

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