Native Youth Beaten For Taking a Stand Against Redmen MascotTweet
During a recent basketball game, Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota youth Monge Cha Eastman, 14, was attacked in a bathroom by non-Native students for distributing ‘Not Your Mascot’ t-shirts. One student blocked the door, while another physically assaulted Monge. Other non-Native students surrounded them, egging on the violence.
Afterwards, Monge was left with welts, bruises, and scratches all over his body. He had a bloody nose, and his head was busted open.
Monge has been suspended for fighting by Tiospa Zina Tribal School, while the non-Native perpetrators from Sisseton School have not been disciplined; this despite reports that Monge was not the aggressor, and that the attack appears racially motivated. A snapchat posted the day before the fight by the student who assaulted Monge seems to show that the attack was premediated.
Monge is part of Damakota Youth Group, started by students who oppose the Sisseton schools’ ‘Redmen’ mascot. Tiospa Zina is the tribal high school. Sisseton school’s student population is predominately non-Native. Both school districts are located within the boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation, home to the Sisseton Wahpeton Dakota Nation.
Last Real Indians spoke with Damakota Youth Group about their efforts to change the Redmen mascot.
Mona Jackson, a high school Junior, said she always disliked the Sisseton Redmen mascot because she felt as though she was being mocked by it. “At basketball games the crowd would war hoop and I always thought that was offensive. I saw a lot of racial acts going on. This has been going on for a long time. I just want to be a part of a positive change. This isn’t right and needs to be stopped.”
“The name and the mascot should be changed because it is offensive to me and many other Dakota people,” says Kylee Deutsch, an 8th grader and Damakota member. “It’s the name ‘Redmen’ that is offensive. ‘Redmen’ is also not a true representation of our Native American people, nor our ways. If the Sisseton School Board truly cared about the offensiveness of the mascot and name they would agree to change it. This has been going on for generations and we need to start stand up for what we believe in.”
The group also said that Sisseton High School uses the Redmen as a mascot as an excuse to hold mock pipe ceremonies during homecoming coronation.
Persephone Eastman, a Junior in high school, has witnessed the coronation ceremony for herself, and she says it was “really offensive.”
“I want the name change because without the name they can’t do the coronation. Both the name and coronation are offensive because it’s a misrepresentation of who we are as Dakota people. They paint themselves with our sundance symbols on their arm like its nothing, like it has no meaning or sacredness to it. They have a fake medicine man that has a vision of who is crowned, with a headdress,” Persephone states.
“They have a fake vision quest to see who will be crowned Chieftain and Princess,” adds LeeAnn Eastman, mother to Monge and Tate Eastman.
Bethany Robertson, a Senior, points to the name itself being offensive. “If you look up the term ‘Redmen’ in the dictionary it’s an offensive term and is used as an insult to Native Americans. How can we feel ‘honored’ and ‘proud’ and ‘respected’ to have a mascot named after us if it’s a dictionary defined racial slur? Also how can we feel ‘honored’ and ‘proud’ and ‘respected’ if they are just going to make a mockery out of us? There’s no honor and pride nor respect in that.”
Besides Monge’s assault, the group has come under attack on social media from adults who don’t want the name changed- but Fidelity Eastman, also a Senior, says that since making a stand on the issue, the Damakota Youth Group has received positive feedback as well. In spite of ignorance and negativity they face, Fidelity says, “We’re taking it all in to use in a positive way, to make our group stronger.”
Follow #Damakota Youth Group on Twitter: @Indigenous247. The Damakota Youth Group Facebook page, which gained almost 1,000 likes in a day, was just taken down by Facebook. Damakota means, “I am Dakota, Respect My Feelings.” These young Native leaders need all the support we can give them.