Interview with Indiana Miami Nation Chief Brian Buchanan
Eric Hackley: Why did the “savage” and “redskins” name stick to Native Americans?
Chief Brian Buchanan: Several names have stuck. I’ve even been approached by Channel 15 News. There’s a lot of things history has done to demean Native Americans in general, not just the Miami. What we choose to fight, we have to pick our battles. We have to pick the battles we know we can win. Just because it’s immorally incorrect doesn’t mean we’re going to win. I learned this from the North Side Redskins situation. Channel 15 came to me and asked what I thought about the name Redskins? I’ll tell you, it’s a derogatory name. I’ll say it again—it’s a derogatory name.
I had another 20-minute interview with them. What’s the tribe going to do about it? The name of North Side High School is over 80 years old. Right now, we’ve got more important things to do with our people. We are so dispersed with the diversity of our own people, we’ve still got that going on. It’s not bad, but it’s diversity. We’re not going to choose that fight. That school was named that a long time ago. I don’t like it and I’m sure there’s a lot of other Native Americans who don’t like it. But, that’s not a fight we’ve chosen to go after right now.
When you tell people why? Do you want to be called Blackskins? Or Yellowskins? No! It’s not right. So when will the morality of society come to the level of saying, it’s not right? Let them fix it on their own. We didn’t put it out there and they know how we feel about it. But, I’m not going to fight them on it.
Hackley: That’s where you need an independent entity to come in who enjoys fighting like we do.
Chief Brian Buchanan: You’re good at that Eric.
Hackley: That’s where the commonality lies among the different ethnic groups. Because they are all focused on other things that are immediately more important to them that they let battles like this Redskins Issue lie dormant.
Interview with Brother Kevin Muhammad, Nation of Islam
Brother Kevin Muhammad: Columbus was trying to find a new land. The truth is that he wanted to find a new route to India. But, he got lost in his navigation from Europe to India. When he got to this land, he thought he had arrived in India. So the people who he saw that were already here, he called them Indians. So today, we call the Native Americans, Indians.
I would not agree with you in saying that his travels should be blamed on Muslims, but you mentioned his navigation. What the Europeans wanted is, since they were dissatisfied with their government in Europe, they wanted to set up a new government. But, they knew that they could not do it in Europe so they wanted to find a new land to set up a new government that would satisfy their dissatisfaction in Europe. So they found a new land and people on that land. But, they wanted and needed to get the people off the land, to take control of the land to set up this new government that we now call the United States of America.
So no, Brother Eric, it was not the fault of the Muslims. The Muslims ousted the Europeans out of many parts of Africa and the Middle East because there was troublemaking going on in Africa by the Europeans and they could not do trading with Africans. They did not want the European influence in the conquests of Africa so they made them go in another direction, so they were forced to find another route to India. The route they chose landed Columbus in the Americas.
Hackley: Since Columbus headed in this direction to find a route to India, one could make the argument that the United States should have been called Indiana.
Kevin Muhammad: I agree with you, brother. If you want to call certain parts Kekionga or name certain things Miami, Seminole, credit should have been given to the people who were already here.
Hackley: When are we going to create a real and true identity of Fort Wayne?
Kevin Muhammad: Fort Wayne to me is a very divine place. I love the way you continuously reiterate the Native American influence on this land. It’s a very sacred place to me right here in little bitty old Fort Wayne in the state of Indiana. We have to move past arrogance, we have to move past ignorance of the true history of this land where we are so that we can grow and advance. Chief Little Turtle made great contributions to this land and to the struggle of his people.
But again, I say that the arrogance to think that not only Native Americans, but darker people in general are insignificant. So we can move them out of the picture to try to get control of the natural resources of this particular land. That’s what this was all about. There was heavy, heavy fur trading that was taking place on this land and the Europeans wanted a piece of the pie, a piece of the money and a piece of the wealth. How do we get into the fur trade?
Now instead of fur trade, it’s drug trade and trafficking. How do we get a piece of this money? Well, we have to take control. We have to break up the unity. We have to put one person against the other and try to take control. It was the same thing that happened then. This was a great trading route because of the three rivers. This was a very wealthy part of the country in the 1800s, 1700, and 1600s. So as a thug would think, how can I get a piece of that? So a plan and plot was put together about how to take control of this land. And, the arrogance is that the darker people who are there are insignificant and are less than the Europeans. Therefore in the minds of the Europeans, their actions of destroying and manipulating the original owners of this land for profit were justified.
Interview with Terry Doran, talk show host/producer Theatre for Ideas
Hackley: Terry, you wrote a Journal Gazette editorial a few years ago talking about how you wanted to change the name of Fort Wayne back to Kekionga. It was titled, “City’s name a painful reminder.”
Terry Doran: Yes, I said Fort Wayne was not a very nice name for a modern city. It was named after a man whose main claim to fame was violence, who was sent here by George Washington to kill people. I still think it’s a disgraceful name for a city.
Hackley: Weren’t you worried that Fort Wayne people would organize themselves and run you out of here? Because it seems like we’re not very intellectually open to hearing discussions like ours.
Terry Doran: You’re right. In addition to writing editorials like that one, around the same time, I did a “Theatre for Ideas Show” called “What’s in a Name, Let’s Change Fort Wayne.” Not a lot of people showed up, but I remember that people were sort of aghast like, “why would you change the name of our city?”
Hackley: Perhaps there is a conspiracy. I recently I attended the Peru, Ind., 164th anniversary of the of the Miami being boated out of here on the Wabash River to Kansas and Oklahoma. That was the execution of President Andrew Jackson’s 1830 Indian Removal Act. The only politician there was the mayor of Peru. There were no other political dignitaries, Educators or student groups present. At a time when we’re only talking about improving our test scores, there has to be a score for general intelligence and history literacy?
Terry Doran: I like that! These standardized tests (ISTEP), you frequently see how student scores fluctuate, but you don’t see anything on the validity of these tests. What are they testing? In the testing, they certainly miss a lot of important things. This gets back to the point of why we’re talking about local history. Local history is not talked about. If it’s taught in school, they’re discussing how quaint the Indians are and look at their neat moccasins. Or you can go to powwows and see all the things they make, but very little about the history.
Hackley: I use to attend multi-cultural meetings at IPFW. One of the ethnic members created a culturally safe game where you match the ethnic face to the style of dress and the country. As I sat back and listened to the concept behind this game, this multi-ethnic body (headed by a Caucasian) wanted to play a modern day version of pin the tail on the donkey. Knowing that we have real issues going on in the world, there was nothing about how in most cases each ethnic group representative had a lot in common with Blacks and Native Americans, which is why they were here in America today. Most of them did not come to the United States on vacation and decided to stay, US soldiers rescued them because of their government in someway trying to kill or starve them. Just like early American history.
Terry Doran: I wish I had the answer to why so many Americans were like this. I done so many shows and it’s hard to get people to come to them.
Hackley: I’m not suggesting that people are because of a lack of interest, ignoring local history, but I have come to the conclusion that they don’t know the history because not only are the schools not pushing it. In 2008, I was informed by an Indiana educator of how Indiana Public Schools had re-edited its text history books. They are no longer required to mention Indians when they teach Indiana or U.S. History. The reason you can’t get Fort Wayne people to a local TV show about Fort Wayne history is their relation to local history is about the same as American’s relationship is to Chinese arithmetic. The Indiana education corporations have deleted (Indian and Kekionga History) the only common denominator between today and the past. By our local and state Public School Corporations ignoring the history of Kekionga and we as Fort Wayne citizens all sit idly by, unaware as to what’s going on, we have become systematically conditioned accomplices to our own local history illiteracy. Consequently, trying to stimulate interest in local history is similar to urinating in a stiff wind. The only person getting wet is you.
Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.