What’s in a Name? Everything!

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As I travel this great country I am amazed at some of the names of cities, towns, landmarks and commercial products that come from another time and space. Am I in a time warp, alternate universe or the twilight zone? It certainly could not be 2013. My first example comes from a Sacramento, California children’s clothing store. I was shopping for clothes and noticed a product  for parents to use to cover unexpected baby boy urine accidents called Pee-pee Teepee. It is shaped into the tipi form. Great concept but wrong name. This is an example of cultural misappropriation of Dakota and Lakota people. See my previous post on this subject.

Why should we care? Tipi is a Dakota word meaning dwelling. Ramona Kitto Stately, Dakota educator, says, “As a Dakota Art and Culture major and an indigenous woman, the Home (tipi) is the heart of the people.  It is the place where we live, where we nurtured and grew families.  The home never left us as we traveled in seasonal cycles, it came with us.  It was so sacred to the people and so necessary for shelter that it was owned by the women.  There is a specific protocol to putting it up, the door facing the east to greet the dawn.  The morning is the most sacred time of the day, we come out and pray and give thanks for the present, the gift of a new day”.

Ms. Stately goes on to say that “Sometimes the tipi symbolism show up in some our oldest designs which proves that the lodge was the very important part of our world.  It is on the Jeffers Petroglyphs which is over 5,000 years old. Taking a sacred object and associating it with a diaper is so incredibly disrespectful. It is proof that the master narrative and white privilege is alive and well in America”.

Please contact Beba Bean and let them know why they need to change the name. Beba Bean not only trademarked the name but wants us to know that it is a perfect shower gift!

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 and more lakes, has its own controversy with the word squaw. The s-word is a pejorative word for female genitalia, specifically American Indian. It is sometimes known as the s-word because indigenous women no longer want to say it and they believe it is equal to the n-word in its offensiveness. Why in the world would we continue to use such a word once we know it is offensive?  Since 1994, activists have been trying to remove the word from the state. Angela Losh and Dawn Litzau, then teenagers, led a successful movement to have Minnesota legislators pass a law to ban the s-word on 19 geographic features. They were successful and eventually the s-lake name was renamed Nature’s Lake. An issue remains because the town remains s-Lake.  In protest, Minnesota Ojibwe residents of the Leech Lake Reservation simply refer to the town as s-lake. Minnesota could learn from its neighbor South Dakota (and other states) who is making efforts to remove the words “negro” and the s-word from 18 sites.  Squaw Valley, California continues with the name and has its own website http://www.squaw.com. We need to work harder to remove all offensive names from American towns and cities.

Dr. Anton Treuer learned about s-word bread from the Old Town Baking Company. He complained to the company and wrote a great counter story to the name on Facebook. His post was later removed. There is now a Facebook page called S-word Bread Needs a New Name. Indian Country Today reports that the company will rename the bread. Kudos to Dr. Treuer for his advocacy and leadership that is making a positive change!


Just Google the s-word bread and several recipes turn up. Milton’s Bread Company is another example. Indian Country has another post about it. Many people have complained and now the bread has been removed from its website. Let’s hope the bread is gone for good. When we see examples of the s-word on products, place names and the like please contact the company and legislators to let them know your disgust. Without our actions, change will not occur. A couple of great resources to assist us in learning about indigenous people of America are Everything you Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask and Do All Indians Live in Tipis? by the National Museum of the American Indian.

So what’s in a name and why should we care? We should care that linking the traditional home of the Dakota and Lakota nations to a personal hygiene product is racist and culturally insensitive. It is an example of a majority culture taking advantage of a minority culture. When the names are taken for personal or professional gain we are marginalizing and mythologizing native people  but not inviting them to the table of friendship, decision making and the board room.


7 thoughts on “What’s in a Name? Everything!

  1. Man ‘stabs puppy 11 TIMES and leaves her to die in dumpster’…

    but dog miraculously survives By Updated:
    19:47 BST, 25 January 2012

    A Texas man confessed to stabbing his 14-week-old puppy Taz and leaving her to die in a dumpster.Fortunately for the puppy, a nearby animal lover and neighbour called the police after she saw Larry Dollins Jr., 42, ‘maliciously’ stabbing Taz.Now,
    the dog is recovering from surgery and is at a shelter waiting to be adopted by a loving family.
    Brave: Taz, a 14-week old female puppy, recovers at Key City
    Veterinary Clinic after surviving the weekend stabbing
    Busted: Police officers arrest Larry Dobbins Jr., third
    from left, at Dobbins’ home in Abilene, Texas
    Dollins’ neighbour Cheryl Ascol told KTXS that she saw him stabbing his
    puppy on Sunday.‘I screamed at him and told him to please stop stabbing the dog,’ Ms Ascol told the Reporter News.

    ‘But he kept on walking toward me with the dog.’That’s when she ran inside and called the
    Abilene police. RELATED ARTICLES

    Share this article

    When the authorities arrived, they found the dog in a city trash bin with multiple stab wounds covering her body –
    along her back, haunches, and legs.They carried the bleeding dog over to
    Ms Ascol’s porch and asked her to fetch a towel in which to wrap her.Taz
    was taken to the Key City Veterinary Clinic, where she underwent
    surgery for her wounds.

    Road to recovery: Taz was treated at a local
    veterinary hospital and is waiting to be adopted by a new family Dr Natalie Matthews,
    who is treating the puppy, told the Reporter News that the dog
    has a ‘really loving attitude.‘She’s an innocent animal and has a very positive outlook on life despite what she’s been through.

    She’s a really remarkable animal.”She’s an innocent
    animal and has a very positive outlook on life despite what she’s
    been through. She’s a really remarkable animal.’-Dr Natalie Matthews
    The veterinary clinic has received multiple calls from inquisitive
    people wanting to know Taz’s progress, Ms Matthews told the Reporter

    She is expected to survive, but continues to be monitored
    by experts.Dollins was arrested Monday after confessing his crime
    to police. According to KTXS-TV,
    officers had to forcibly enter Dollins’ house when they tried to serve the warrant for animal cruelty.After officers entered his home, he was arrested.According to Abilene Police Detective Ernest Moscarelli, Dollins fully admitted to stabbing the puppy
    and then throwing it in the garbage. Weekend violence: Taz was stabbed at her owner Larry Dollins’ Abilene, Texas home The crime is a state felony,
    and is punishable by 180 days up to two years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.He is being held at the Taylor County Jail on $25,000 bail and faces charges of animal cruelty.
    Local psychotherapist Dr Marc Orner said that Dollins may have taken his aggression out on a helpless animal because it
    made him feel more powerful. ‘That’s not anger,
    that’s rage,’ Dr Orner told KTXS, saying that there could
    be an external factor making Dollins so violent.Another neighbour and
    friend told the station that he noticed a recent change in Dollins’ behaviour.‘I actually saw a change in this guy,
    ‘ Robert Thompson said, adding that he thinks a drug addiction might
    be to blame for his changes.Dr Matthews says she expects Taz to find a new home by Wednesday.Dollins
    told the Reporter News in a prison interview that he loves his pet.

    ‘I love my dog,’ he told the paper. ‘I wasn’t trying to be cruel.

    I was trying to take care of it.’He said that
    Taz suffers from intestinal worms as well as heartworms, and he could
    not afford the veterinary bills.‘I only make $280 every two weeks,’ he said, adding that he wasn’t aware dogs can be given to
    animal shelters if the owner can no longer take care of it.He said that because he’s on probation for a 2007 drug conviction, he is not allowed to own or
    carry a gun. ‘It was not an easy decision,’ Dollins

    ‘It took me two hours to work up the nerve to
    go out there and do it.’Do you know an animal that is being abused?
    Contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) at aspca.org to report abuse to your local branch.


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