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!”
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.