Friday, October 26, 2007

EMU Huron Pride

In a misguided attempt to reach out to the Huron Restoration Committee, EMU formed the Huron Welcoming Committee this year. Rather than explaining yet again why the name was changed 16 years ago, this committee has completely overlooked any discussions about the racial issues involved and offered all alumni and alumnae discounted football tickets this fall if they show up wearing "EMU Huron" t-shirts. Here is the "full" story from the Exemplar. While this pisses me off, I supoose it could be argued that the Hurons (or Wyandotte, considdering that "Huron" comes from the French for "ruffian") will never be able to complain since they're all dead. But that is part of the problem: they aren't all dead. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but the use of Native American names for things like sports teams freezes our image of Native People in the past as if they were all "noble savages" & brave warriors, when in fact, they still exsist today as teachers, ministers, auto-workers, @ C.E.O.s. Here is a copy of the letter I sent to Ted Coutilish (ted.coutilish@emich.edu); I suggest y'all write to him as well.

As a Lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature, it was brought to my attention this week that the University is offering a discount on football tickets to those wearing "EMU Huron" T-Shirts this fall. I understand the desire to reach out to alumni and alumnae who have connections with the University dating back at least 16 years. However, when we consider the struggle the University went through to change the name and the struggle other schools around the country are still going through, it would be wise to look into other ways to honor their legacy with EMU. The overt racism inherent in the Huron name should not be forgotten. As soon as we begin to overlook the damage that has been done in the past, we open the door to its recurrence in the future.

While working with representatives of the Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter, we should focus on this simple fact. By "honoring" the legacy of the "Huron" name, we are in turn honoring the legacy of what it implies: imperialism and stereotyping. Rather than offering discounted tickets, we could offer a discount on Eagle memorabilia for those who turn in their old, racially problematic T-Shirts. We need to work with the alumnae and alumni to educate people about this problem rather than simply looking at it as an issue of heritage and school pride. When we consider that Ypsilanti High School just dealt with this very same issue last year, ignoring it at EMU shows a lack of compassion and a simple ignorance to the racial issues both in our country as a whole and in this very community. I know that was never your idea, nor would I ever accuse you of any mean-spirited motives in this discount plan, but reaching out to the Huron Restoration Alumni Chapter and the fight against racism and prejudice on campus don't need to be mutually exclusive.

5 comments:

Ypsipearl said...

I am so sick of this. My friend Deisha and I were on the Huron Logo Committee that recommended that the logo be changed originally. I first heard about this when she sent me her copy of the letter she sent to EMU, and here it is, the noble savage perspective:

"To the EMU family and other interested parties,
The decision for Eastern to change the Huron logo was met with triumph by many and the sight of fans with T-shirts with the retired logo at football games is an insult to Indians and others in attendance (those paying full price).
Who are the members of the "Huron leadership" that the Huron Welcoming Committee is supposedly working closely with to bridge this so-called divide between the Huron and the Eagle-era alumni. (Exemplar magazine-current issue) I'm a member of Mnjikaning First Nation who have ties, both ancient and historic, with the Huron nation and am not aware of a "Huron leadership" in this area.
I think time can be better spent developing a more welcoming and caring environment toward native people on EMU's campus, considering the ethnic cleansing campaigns imposed upon them by the U.S. government throughout Michigan in the 1800's-- or are their pockets not deep enough to warrant such coddling.
By encouraging alumni to wear logos from an out-dated era is a slap in the face to Indians. It's creating divides, not bridging them, all in an effort to pursue an agenda to bring the Huron logo back- a futile agenda I believe. I believe that no one in the administration whether they agree with the past decision or not wants to bring back a symbol that stands for close-mindedness, class ism, and racist stereotyping.
Instead of an $8 discount for alumni wearing Huron garb, why not give that discount to Indian people for EMU appropriating their image and profiting off it for 62 years without their permission, consideration or compensation.
Thank you for your consideration."

Thanks for writing a letter. Guess I'll write one now and THEN make two bushels worth of applesauce.

Ypsipearl said...

This is what I sent off, and now I'm going to make applesauce. That's a good comic, by the way.

To the EMU Administration,

I am a alumni as well as a current student here at Eastern Michigan University. I received a BSN from EMU in 1989, and during that time I was involved in the controversy over the Huron logo. I supported then, as I do now, the retiring of the logo and name in favor of an appropriate symbol for the school that does not demean or trivialize a race or culture.

I am so very disappointed to hear of the efforts to revive this issue by encouraging the use of the name and logo by alumni. The mascot for EMU was changed for good reason. Believe me, I remember the so-called respect that the Huron Restoration Committee showed for native people. Hostility was more like it, and I believe that you are making a huge mistake by legitimizing the Huron Restoration group.

Hasn’t EMU had enough publicity of late due to the irresponsible actions of the administration? I strongly encourage you and EMU to rescind these ridiculous overtures, and work on restoring the image and reputation of the university. A reputation that is better suited toward a university, such as one that based on intellect, discovery and progressiveness, rather than racist revisionism.

Thank you,

Stacey Fallis

jason said...

I can't believe it's been 16 years already! I don't really understand why the name Hurons in itself is racist and offensive. I understand certain logos and mascots could be, but using the name and an appropriate logo seems more like honoring them. In any case, I do think it's rather bizarre that they are encouraging people to wear out of date gear. If I'm a St. Louis Rams fan, I'm not wearing an L.A. Rams shirt to the game. For better or worse, they are the Eagles now, so you should be supporting the EAGLES at the game, not the bygone Hurons.

joe said...

Was it more about the logo or the name or both?

I agree with you Duerr. I don't break out my Houston Oilers jersey to support the Houston Texans. What a weird thing for the administration to encourage.

Paul said...

Too bad we have to have a team named after a bird that was almost wiped out by crazy hunters and people who destroyed their habitat. We should name teams after non-living things. We could have the Eastern Michigan University Nut Crackers as the name for a team, for instance.