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 (firstname.lastname@example.org); 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.