Natives on the frontiers of the culture wars have a host of issues to contend with, just some of which are appropriation, sports mascots, and redface portrayals—and to borrow a phrase, they are all related. Looked at separately—a racial-slur team name here, a fake headdress there—they may evoke a shrug of indifference from non-Natives and even some Natives.
It’s just a football team.
It’s just makeup.
It’s just a school play.
In her poem “Love You Some Indians,” Navajo poet Rowie Shebala connects the dots with both eloquence and emotion. Her words show how the bits and pieces of insult and prejudice that confront Natives daily add up to a giant slap in the face. This performance of the piece was filmed at the most recent National Poetry Slam, held in early August in Oakland, where Shebala competed as part of the Sedona team.