Tears flow for Native American History Month at NKU

Tears flowed like a river at the First Nations Student Organization (FNSO) celebration of Native America.

FNSO co-president Dayna Schambach couldn’t hold back tears as she addressed the crowd and thanked them for their suppport after an emotional slide show presentation. The slide show played a video of a Native American teenage girl battling depression and writing poems that helped her get through the day instead of ending it all by suicide. There were also various pictures of the Lakota tribe sitting outside in the cold because of the lack of medical and government help.

“These issues need to be brought to the table so the Native Americans will stop dying and be able to restore their culture,” Schambach said.

November is Native American Heritage Month in Kentucky and the majority of the United States. On Nov. 10 at the Otto Budig Theater in the University Center at Northern Kentucky University, FNSO and Kiksuya sponsored a celebration of true Native American Heritage with presentations, including art and research in pop culture, showing stereotypes of Native Americans. The FNSO also wanted to shed light on how impoverished the Lakota Indian tribe is in the state of South Dakota and the lack of health care they receive.

“This is a major issue that no one really acknowledges; it’s kind of been swept under the rug. Most Lakota families run out of propane to heat their homes before winter is over,” said Holly Abdon, junior sociology major.

Anthropology major Rachelle Nadler presented a slide show on stereotypes of Native Americans in cartoons. She showed a classic Betty Boop cartoon from 1939 called “Rhythm on the Reservation.” The episode depicted Native Americans as being unintelligent ­— it showed them speaking in short, incomplete sentences and pounding on their chests to communicate. The next cartoon she presented was “Horse Hare” from the Looney Tunes in 1960. In this episode Bugs Bunny sings the song, “Ten Little Indians” while searching for Indians, which is a children’s poem that refers to ten little Indian boys dying.

“Even though these cartoons are outdated, it is still the same type of stereotypical cartoons that society is showing kids today,” Nadler said.

Sociology major Mallory Minter presented the stereotypes of Native Americans represented in video games.

“Women are seen as sexual objects and men are shown as war heroes, revenge-seeking and often adopted,” Minter said.

The 1982 Atari video game “Custer’s Revenge” is one of the most controversial games ever released. The objective of the game is to move General Custer across the screen, dodging arrows while trying to get to the naked Native American woman in order to have sex with her and score points. The catchphrase of the video game was, “When you score, you score.”

“People are all over the Internet trying to get this game remade and obviously I find that offensive,” Minter said.

Other stereotypical video games shown by Minter include “Mortal Kombat III” where a Native American character, Nightwolf, turns into a wolf and eats the opponent for his fatality move as the word “Animality” pops up on the screen. “Tekken 3” and “Darkwatch” both portray Native American women as sex objects, with limited to no clothing worn at all. “Red Dead Revolver” and its sequel “Red Dead Redemption” has a half-Native American lead character named Red.

“Hopefully with these presentations we can make people aware of Native American affairs and help the Lakota preserve their Thanksgiving traditions, despite the trying times,” co-president Devon Cowherd said.

For more information on how to express opinions and help preserve Native American culture, visit the FNSO page at nku.orgsync.com and search for “first nation,” or e-mail co-president of FNSO Devon Cowherd at cowherdd1@nku.edu.

Story by Derick Bischoff