The NCAA should be pleased with the U’s new team moniker.
by D.P. Sorensen
In a hastily called news conference, University of Utah President Michael Young announced yesterday that the university has changed its nickname from the Utes to the Lamanites. Wearing nothing more than war paint and a loin cloth, and waving a feathered spear in a distinctly menacing manner, President Young came riding into the room on a palomino stallion, scattering the assembled media slugs in all directions.
After alighting from his steed and adjusting his loincloth, the illustrious educator gave a war whoop and strode to the podium. “How,” said Chief Young, holding up a hand in the traditional greeting of the indigenous people of America, at least as portrayed on the silver screen. “As you know, the Great White Fathers at the NCAA say we can’t call ourselves Utes anymore. Even though we went out to the reservation and got permission from the noble savages to use their name for our teams. Let me just say that I categorically reject the suggestion that plying them with fire water and presenting them with worthless wampum influenced their decision in any way whatsoever.
“But we will not abandon our heritage. Instead we choose to reaffirm our heritage and honor our history. So henceforth and from now on, the Utes will be known as the Lamanites, the ancient Hebrew people whose history is chronicled in the Book of Mormon, the most correct book ever wrote. Our archeologists have proved that the Utes are in fact descendents of the Lamanites. Despite DNA evidence that conclusively proves that Hebrews never stepped foot in ancient America, we know of a surety that Utes are as Jewish as kosher pickles.”
The first question to the heap big university tribal elder came from a puny paleface in the back of the room. “It’s been a while since I’ve dipped into the Book of Mormon, but weren’t the Lamanites cut off from the presence of the Lord because they dwindled in unbelief and did not hearken to the word of Nephi?”
“You are correct, sir,” replied Chief Young.
“And isn’t it true,” continued the paleface reporter, “that the Lord caused a sore cursing to come upon them because of their iniquity?”
“You are correct, deadline breath,” boomed Chief Young, displaying just a hint of annoyance.
“Furthermore, isn’t it true that, as Nephi wrote, wherefore as they were white and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them? And because of the cursing which was upon them they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey?”
“You have quoted Nephi exactly, Mormon-basher breath. But what is your question?”
“Well, why honor such a loathsome, idle and filthy people? Assuming, of course, that the Book of Mormon story is correct.”
“I’ll tell you why, semicolon brain. It’s because sports mascots are all subhuman entities, like lions, tigers, wolves, cougars, badgers, etc., most of whom have been hunted to extinction, just like American Indians. Despite all the pious baloney about honoring the Indian and being sensitive and respectful, we just want to maintain the brand and keep our alumni happy. We in the academic world have acquired great expertise in the noble art of speaking with a forked tongue. The only heritage we are honoring is the heritage of pretty much killing off the American Indian.
“Besides, since the NCAA says it’s OK for San Diego State to keep calling themselves the Aztecs, we figure the NCAA can’t complain about us naming ourselves after another ancient people, even if the Lamanites appear only in Joseph Smith’s fictional epic. All the better if the Lamanites are just a figment of the prophet’s overheated imagination. Who’s going to complain? Ever run into anybody who calls himself a Lamanite?
“Anyway, just as the Aztecs have Monty Montezuma, we are going to have our own mascot, Samuel the Lamanite, the distinguished preacher who came to Zarahemla and made a pest out of himself by chastising the Nephites for their stiff-necked iniquities. We plan to have Samuel the Lamanite put on a yarmulke and ride into the Huntsman Center in a golf cart, which was the preferred mode of transportation in ancient Zarahemla.”
“Speaking of mascots, I always thought Utah’s HoYo was a cute little Lamanite. It was a shame we had to send him back to the reservation. That Swoop guy we have now gives me the creeps.”
Indians take different tack on Pioneer Day
Pioneer Day different for Utah Indians
When the Mormon
pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, their prophet-leader,
Brigham Young, looked over the landscape and made his famous declaration: "This
is the right place."
After a 1,300-mile exodus from Nauvoo, Ill., to the Great Basin, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints finally found here the peace that had eluded them elsewhere. They also found something else: American Indians who had made the region their home for generations.
During the annual Pioneer Day holiday every July 24, Utahns flock by the thousands to watch the Days of '47 Parade and commemorate the pioneers' arrival. But the meanings the Utes, Shoshone, Navajo and other American Indians in Utah ascribe to Pioneer Day are varied and deeply personal.
For Navajo Cal Nez, the holiday means it's time for the Native American Celebration in the Park, the independent festival he founded and oversees each year in Liberty Park that coincides with the Days of '47 celebration.
Nez says nearly half the participants in the Days of '47 Parade, which winds up at Liberty Park, also pop in for the American Indian festival.
"We've been doing [the festival] for 12 years," Nez says. "When we first started out, we were a tiny festival. We are just massive [now]. We draw people from all over the United States. For a one-day festival, we draw from 65,000 to 85,000 people. Most people are happy that we are able to hold the festival to honor our people and to have our drums heard."
For her part, Mary Lee Longhair, a Ute who is a public relations aide for the Ute tribe in Fort Duchesne, does feel excluded from the traditional Pioneer Day celebrations.
"We've just never been included," she says. "We do feel left out. We were kind of pushed aside [when the Mormons came]. We never really celebrated [or accepted] the 24th of July. We never recognized the Mormon traditions, and that's what it is."
Dena Ned, of the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations in Oklahoma, has lived in Utah for much of her life and agrees with Longhair's perspective.
"On the surface, what you see in the parade, the fireworks, is a celebration of culture, but it is not all-inclusive," she says. "It's always from one point of view of the history. It happens to be from the point of view that benefits from it. I don't think the organizers will ever change it to represent the true history. It is what it is."
But Ned, who is the executive director of the Indian Walk-In Center in Salt Lake City, recognizes that she and other Indians living in Utah cannot ignore the holiday.
"Everyone has a right to celebrate what they want," she says. "That's what a celebration is. But will I support it and be right there behind it? No. It is a three-day weekend, [but] there's no emotional connection to it for me personally."
In reviewing the motivations that brought the early LDS settlers to Utah, Cal Nez does find a bit of irony.
"One of the things I find interesting is that back when the pioneers first came to Utah, they were oppressed, running for their lives. We [American Indians] understand that," he says.
Nez says it is wonderful to be able to reach out and share cultures with others.
"We're about building bridges, reaching out to create unity," he adds. At the Native American Celebration in the Park, we have "no political agenda."
"There's nothing we can do about the past, but we feel strongly that we can do something about the future [and reach out] to our brothers and sisters."
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