Jaylen Fryberg Is Not Your Indian Savage
This essay was written by Jonnie Taté Walker. She prefaces it with this:
NOTE: This wasn’t an easy post to write. There are layers and layers of oppression here, and I’ve chosen the one I’m most familiar with: How the misrepresentation and misappropriation of Native culture hurts our youth. I’m not condoning the violence perpetrated by Jaylen, but I’m not condemning him, either. I see a beautiful boy who loved his culture, loved his parents, and loved his peers. And I also see a kid society failed miserably. We can do better. Prayers for all the families involved.
I found it from her Tweet:
Jaylen Fryberg Is Not Your Indian Savage http://t.co/paxovRKFDz
It didn’t take long for news outlets to turn real-life tragedy into some spaghetti western hopped up on Shakespeare Friday.
Jaylen Fryberg, a 15-year-old freshman at Marysville-Pilchuch [sic] High School in Washington state, shot and injured four students and killed a girl and himself Friday during lunch.
Fryberg was Native American, and a citizen of the Tulalip Tribes active in his people’s culture.
Images of Jaylen used in the media move from his normal teenage wear (you know, the clothes that render him a “thug”), to him in his traditional regalia, to him with the weapons he used to hunt and fish. These aren’t just random photos news outlets are exploiting from the social media accounts of an underage kid (problematic in and of itself). They are purposeful and part of a long history of system racism pervasive in mass media.
For those of us who have spent years studying the effects of mascots and Native representation in mass media, it’s no coincidence that Jaylen turned to violence when his own football team was the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks, a nickname that came under fire several times over the past couple of decades as school boards across the country became hip to the fact Native-associated mascots are damaging in ways that utterly dehumanize and erase Native youth identities.
Please read the rest of her essay here: Jaylen Fryberg Is Not Your Indian Savage
This is from the New York Times:
This month, Jaylen got into a fight at football practice, punching a student and breaking his nose over a racial slur against Native Americans, Josh said.
That day, ShayAnn Wolf, 16, a junior, was in a sports medicine class. “The kid that got his nose broken came in with a bloody nose — it was gushing blood,” she said. “He told our sports med teacher that Jaylen just came up and grabbed him and started punching.”
ShayAnn, whose boyfriend is a football player, later also heard that a racist joke had started the fight, and said Jaylen had been briefly suspended from the football team.
This is from almost a year ago in the Tulalip News. It was linked in Walker’s essay. It is unknown whether or how Stephanie Fryberg is related to Jaylen Fryberg.
As a former student at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, home of the Tomahawks, Dr. Stephanie Fryberg remembers seeing a fellow student clad in a headdress of feathers and watching as other kids participated in the Tomahawk Chop.
Fryberg, a Native American and member of the Tulalip Tribe, said she always found those displays disturbing.
“I was an athlete in Marysville and I was definitely part of the sports culture, but I always felt weird about that,” said Fryberg, who received a PhD from Stanford University in 2003 and is today an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona, where she is also affiliate faculty for American Indian Studies (she is on leave in the current academic year).
According to Fryberg, those nicknames and mascots also demean the people they are purported to esteem. “People say they are honoring Natives,” she said. “No, they’re not.
“Given the difficulties Native students have had being successful in mainstream schools,” she went on, “I just don’t think it’s a place where we need to add one more stereotype and one more barrier for Native students to (overcome). … Negative stereotypes are playing with people’s identity, and at the end of the day, how many Native students have to say it bothers them before we care?”