Clyde Bellecourt Speaks about the Indian Mascot Issue

Clyde Bellecourt not only discusses the history of Indigenous of North America but also the use derogatory use of Indian Mascots. This speech was filmed at the University of Minnesota.

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Speaking Anishinaabemowin.

Three Fire Society gathering of the sacred pipe, Sundance, American Indian Movement. My elders, uh, uh, told me When I came home from, uh, Wounded Knee in 1973, That I had to have an Indian name. And that’s when I learned how beautiful our way of life, our culture was at one time. And they sent this young man without my knowledge, When I came home from Wounded Knee, they sent him out to the woods. To seek a vision. He was to fast for four days. Four nights, No food to eat, maybe just a little tea to seek a vision. He was to fast for four days, four nights, No food to eat, maybe just a little tea To drink. And sometime during those four days The Creator would come. He would present my name. And the reason why they did that, they were gonna honor me. They were gonna gimme an Eagle feather. When I came home from Wounded Knee, they were gonna make me a chief As the first time in the history, in our history, over a hundred years, They had to make it of a chief.

And they said that the Eagle feather was so sacred. At one time, You couldn’t even touch it. Unless you had an Indian name. So this young man was sent out in the woods, unknown to me, cuz I, there was a assassination attempt on my life. I following Wounded Knee. By the FBI And I was healing. And my wife, every day she’d come visit me in the hospital, told me I had to go over the , Wisconsin place called Round Lake, Anishinaabe traditional community. Tell me why. Just kept bugging me every day. I couldn’t leave. I was all stapled together. A shot right below the heart bullet went through my pancreas, Lodged by my spine. I couldn’t go anywhere, but she kept bugging me, bugging me every day. And finally I said, let’s go. She got in her car. We drove, I got there. There was cars all over in the woods parked. And they brought out this big drum. They call it the big drum. The big drum was brought over here by the Lakota people Because they were burning them up. The churches and the government Was destroying everything that we had, our Tepe, our sweat lodges, our ceremonies, our sacred drums, our rattles, our medicine,

Everything was being burnt up. And these women came from South Dakota. And they presented this drum to the Ana people and wanted us to guard it for them. Some day they said, we’re gonna be strong enough. We’re gonna come back and get that drum. That’s the story they told me when I arrived there that day And they took me right into a sweat lodge, Purification ceremony. I had to purify myself because I didn’t know what was gonna happen that day, But they knew they had to purify. They had to burn their Sage and the sweet grass. And I had to Sweat. I had to purify myself, not only on the outside, but from the inside. And then they told me there what was gonna happen that day? He said, I went out in the woods And the third night, The third night of my fast, I begged The Creator, before I went to sleep that night, [Speaking Anishinaabemowin] to grandfathers. Great spirit. My brother has to have his name. They’re gonna make him a chief Tomorrow. I said about two o’clock in the morning in his dead sleep. He could see the sheet lightning

Coming from the west. As he got close to the trees part, the bow back and forth. Started to blow back and forth. All of a sudden there was a bolt of lightning he’d thunder and he woke up and sure enough, the trees were blowing back and forth. And the lightning was there. And started to drizzle, Packed up his gear, walked all the way out the woods, five miles got in his car and came back And told me that in the sweat lodge From that day fourth, My name would be Neegonnwayweedun—The thunder before the storm. And I liked that lot better in Clyde. It means something to me. It came from the creator. It didn’t come out of the Bible. Matthew Mark Luke, or John. That’s how beautiful it was at one time for our people, But the federal government and white European education and organized religion. I’m not talking about Christianity, now I’m talking about organized religion, worked day in and day out to strip us of our language, our culture, our traditions.Then to remove us from our land to the removal, the relocation program. So they can come in and steal the gold and the timber, take our timber, our water rights, take our fish away from us. Take everything that we survived on for hundreds of thousands of years. Take it from us.

That’s what I found out. That’s what I know. And when the American Indian Movement was born in July of 1968, we felt that absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing was being taught in the public and parochial school systems of America. No colleges, or university dare talk about what they did to the Indian people. They talk about cultural diversity. I don’t know nothing about cultural diversity. I don’t see no cultural diversity here. I know that people are no known nothing about us. The only thing they know is what they see—John Wayne and George Armstrong Custer, The Lone Ranger and Tonto. That’s all they see. They don’t want them to know the truth. When the American Indian Movement was born in July, 1968, The only book written here Called Minnesota Star, the North. How many of you seen that? Raise your hand. How many you seen the book star? The north, Minnesota Star of The North. Raise your hand. No one. That’s what I’m talking about. Two pages into the book. When you open it up. When they show? you know, at one time we were 6, 7, 8 feet, tall, muscular. That’s where they portrayed us With Mohawks. All, everybody was Indian had to be a Mohawk.

That’s the kind of hair they put on us. He had a white woman Around her neck and he was cutting her right here in the blood was flying in the air And this little baby girl, this little girl in this, holding her mother by the arm by the leg crying. And here’s the poor farmer laying in the field, All kinds of arrows in his back. And the farm burning up in the cornfield, burning up in the background. That’s what they taught people, All these doctors and educators and degree people and every kind of initial front of their name didn’t know absolutely nothing. And still don’t know nothing about us today. They build these cultural diversity programs and equity, and they talk about all those things. Where’s the curriculum?

I was in Moral Hall (University of Minnesota) And black people were fighting for their rights for good education, scholarships, and knowledge about what happened to them. How did they get here? Where’d they come from? What tribe, what nation did they belong to? They took over Moral Hall. How had the forces me? I was there. I went there. I went to talk about Indian studies. I went there to talk about the commitments made through treaties. That we’d always have a good education. They were supposed to have free tuition right here in this University. They still have it up in Morris (Univesity of Minnesota, Morrsi), but they don’t have it here. They didn’t get this land for nothing. And when we start speaking out, bout that, didn’t take long, just three years after the formation of American Indian movement, the FBI, the justice department, all the (unintelligible) organizations in the world. America started watching us. We don’t have weapons of mass destruction, but we knew back then that 75% of all the energy resources left in America was still in our land. 75%—90 percent of all the fresh water left in this part of the country comes from that Northern watershed. The Mississippi river starts spring water.


I remember as a little boy, we could go to Lake Itasca, going out to the wild rice bed. We’d go out and drink that water. It was so clear. You go on the middle of Lake Sunshine, you could see the all the way at 30 feet down. It’s all beautiful. It was at one time. And I remember growing up on, on the reservation, they only had two schools there. One was a public school and one was a mission school, St. Benedict’s Mission. The Benedictans are right below the Jesuits—They’re the law enforcement arm of the church, when all the (unintelligible) fail to Christianizing Indian people, they bring in The Benedictans—Nuns that looked like the front line of the Green Bay Packers. Never saw their feet or nothing. They’re covered completely in black, scared the hell out when you, when you saw them. That’s where we had to go. We didn’t go to public school. We had to go to mission school. And I remember going to school in the morning. I couldn’t understand it. I, I hated school. I hated it. You had to pledge allegiance to the flag in the United States of a, of an America. And on the other side of the Blackboard was a picture of some guy. He had a black patent leather, high heel shoes, little white nylons up to his knees, britches on little ruffle shirt, blonde wig, rouge on his cheeks. I found out later wooden teeth was a father of our country that confused me.

My father, my grandfather was White Crane. He was one of our principal Chiefs. You could pinch him anywhere on his body. He wouldn’t get an inch of fat. He didn’t look like Boy George, But there was nothing, nothing in the curriculum. And that’s still not there today. We know today that 70% of all the food that’s consumed in the world today comes from Indian people. Medical science, and doctors have said they haven’t come up with a medicine yet that Indian people then have huge in practice. Nothing I was down (unintelligible) four years ago. I got to go into the city, the oldest city in the world, 280,000 people lived there. Second, third floor buildings. Water came in from the mountains, came down through the village. They showed it to me. I had duck into all these homes. They pull the slabs and showed me how they worked, how they did it. And then when they ran out the city, the farms would come in. They would collect that those feces. And then they would go fertilize, their gardens. They had running water and the Spaniards were still living in caves over in Europe. I said, I’ve heard about brain surgery. I heard about brain. I heard people were. I heard it from Sundances that come up here in Sundance, that people were practicing brain surgery. They took me way back in the corner and they had, it was Indians. Now archeologist there. They finally went to go in there and complete that archeologist dig there, had hundreds, piles of skulls.


They come and brought me those skulls and showed it to me and had little pinhole. Some were 10, 20 years apart. Where they were able to go into the brain and relieve pressure and poison. And that people lived. The Spaniards will still have been in caves

Over In New York. How come we don’t learn that? How come you have to learn that to get a degree? Huh? How come that’s not taught? How would our children feel? Huh? When we, when we formed the movement, we, we had a 4.5 grade level. We lived to be 43.5 in American white, white America, 65. Plus You can go on and on. When, when your unemployment rate creeps up a little bit, eh, about six, seven, 8%. They panic. All the bankers come together. Countries try to find ways to stimulate your economy. How about unemployment? My reservation, 62% of our people are unemployed. And Pine Ridge is 82%. How come? We’re not taught that? We talk about economics and

All that. How come nothing like that’s taught. Cuz they want to see us that way. They trying to want us to fail. And the American Indian Movement stood up. The land was rightfully ours. And when we found that book, we said, we wanted to take out of the curriculum. We want the truth to be told. Martin Luther king said only the truth will set you free. We want the truth to be told. We couldn’t get any school board. Any of those that developed curricula, get it approved. You can get no one to do that. All Robinsdale Minnesota and all white community. The students heard us and guess what? They did. White students heard us, guess what they did. They cleaned out the library. They checked out that book. They took it home with ’em. They looked at it and read it. Two days later, they came back to this high school. They built a bonfire, burnt up every single one of those books. And even after that took us two years, three years to get it outta the curricula, but it’s never been replaced. And that’s why we have these mascots today. That’s the way they look at us, savages.

I was at my little sister here up in Salmon Idaho, that’s where the Weaver family shot it out with the FBI tax. About taxes and stuff his wife got killed. Yeah, super. I don’t want hate to use the word redneck, but their next glow in the dark, how bad it was up there. And we dared to go in there. Guess what? Their mascot, it was. Guess what their name was. Salmon River home of the fighting Savages. That’s those pictures they put on these big signs, all lit up. As we were driving into town, only about 3000 people lived there in about 2,800 of them bringing their own little babies with ’em in their arms. Just who are these people that tell us, we have to get rid of all this ignorance in America, our beautiful mascots and our powwows and our people doing splits in the air.

When they get out non-Indian people, the way they portray us. And we went in there, it got deafly quiet. Me and Mike Haney and my sister here, Sid crew got deathly quiet and like Daniel Snyder and over 2000 presidents, college presidents, athletic, the departments across America. They said they would never, never, ever would they give up their name? Never. Well about a year and a half, they were gone. That’s the work we do. We it’s important. It has a tremendous psychological effect. I mentor, I do a lot of stuff. I mentor children. I take ’em to you games, you know? And they want to go see the Cleveland. You know, they want go see who this wahoo guy is. You know, they want to go to Kansas City and watch games like that. And then here it comes. The Viking fans they’ve been partying all morning, tailgating drunk, come in with yellow hair, golden hair purple one side of their face was purple. The other side is gold. Got horns on their head, set up behind us. Uh, soon as the Vikings started getting a little bit behind playing one of these so called Indian teams, mascots people sitting all over the audience, tomahawks in their hand, Chicken feathers, in their hair pin on their, their face. They start hollering Massacre at MF and Redkins. Scalp ’em. Kids start shaking. He grabbed me by the arm, uncle, uncle let’s, let’s go home. Let’s go home. Now. I’m not going anywhere. I paid for these tickets and I get up and I confront those drunks. Pretty soon here comes the security all around us. And every single time I prevail, those drunks had to leave. And the majority of the audience stand up, and join me in those efforts to try to quiet, shut those kind of people up. So that’s where we’re at. That’s where at today I’d like to see some, I haven’t seen it yet.

I’d like to see some real diversity In some college. I’d like, see everybody learn the truth. That’s all we went. They don’t know nothing About what happened to the Dakota of people here. Shortly after we formed, there was a young man from white earth. My res, didn’t look Indian, he had blonde hair, white hair, young boy. He was a stock boy at historic society. They got all shook up, cuz the American Indian Movement’s gonna come and confiscate all the drums and the, and the scallops and skulls and everything that they have. So they had a security man and they hired this young man there stay over at night, you know, and put all these things down. Little Crow, skull, his scalp stretch between a ring, put him away, Hide’em. American Indian Movements comming. They didn’t know this young man was Indian, turned out to be Dr. David Boer went to the highest level in education in Washington. DC called me and Dennis up, one night. Meet us over here at Perkins on 27th and Riverside, he photographed everything. Xeroxed, everything took pictures of Little Crow his scalp found out that Shakopee are still being used at Mayo clinic. The skeletal remains. Strung up for premed studies. He gave us that book. We started exposing the truth that not one single person our of 300 people that were sentenced to die. Not one of ’em spent more than five minutes in a courtroom. Study it, go check it out, go the Historical society. Cause I I’m telling you, go on over there and find it. It’s the truth. It’s not in the curricula. You’ll never see it in a school or a college like this.


You hear about the crucifixions and all that kind of kind of stuff. But you don’t know about the crucifixions of Indian people. The slaughter of been Indian people and we start exposing, oh, these guys are radical. They’re just trying to stir up trouble. Well, Sue us, take us to court. We can prove everything we’re saying. And we were successful in getting Shakopees body. We wanted to make a big public relation, public publicity out of it. But Shakopees people were so beat and down at that time, they didn’t have Mystic Lake. They didn’t have little Six. They didn’t have these big casino. They lived with dirt floors, tar paper shacks. And so we did it quietly. We took ’em outta Rochester Mayo clinic and brought ’em back home to them. And Little Crows scalp, his body, all of that was returned to the Shakopee people for proper burial. And that’s kind of where we’re at, why we’re here, where we’re at today. They’re honoring us. How the hell can they honor us that way? What would they do if we honor them? What if I had all the casino money in the world? And I built a team, I bought out the, uh, new Orleans saints


Buy the new Orleans saints, develop a mascot, Huh? Maybe I have a mascot dressed up like the Pope. Every time there’s a touchdown, touchdown made and people can wave crucifix, do the crucifix chop instead of the, tomahawk chop, do the crucifix chop. This little Pope can run around sprinkle holy water and all the drinks. Instead of slapping themselves. What’s wrong with the people that are slapping themselves in the mouth and make a ridiculous sound. They call a warwhoop, what is wrong? They must be sick. They must be sick. Instead of doing that, they just wave a crucifix. Instead of a war chant sing the Ava Maria Or the Lord’s prayer. We all know the Lord’s prayer. How long do you think that would last. We, and you know, it would never last. It’d be over tomorrow. Little Black Sambo’s gone. John Wayne is dead. Now Little Red Sambo has to go. It’s all over. We have to forget that we have to get on with our life. But we can’t get on our life until we face the truth. This place should be for you tonight. If I was running a cultural diversity program, there would be every Indian in this city would be here tonight. Every black person would be here tonight, here in this hall, you the job and the work is hard, but it has to be done. And we’re asking you to join us in that effort on Sunday.


Be rich. Thank you for listening a little bit. And the reason why I talk about these things. I remember my mother tonight. I speak about my mother and I’m speaking for every Indian in America. My mother went in the boarding school. She was growing up with children. I said seven daughters and five boys. We wonder why her knees swelled up on her all the time. When they were rain, that’s gonna rain. We’d ask her about it. Oh, just the weather. Don’t ask so many questions. At Night. I’d hear old lady Mitchell, Mrs. Big bear come to the house. They think we’re all sleeping. 11, 10, 11 o’clock at night. They think we’re all sleeping, (Speaking Anishinaabemowin) boozhoo. They talked to strange language that we never hear during the day. They didn’t want us to know how to speak Indian. I found out later we’d be punished like them. They’d play cars and tell stories. And it’s strange language. I’d be laying there listening to ’em little boy. They’d laugh so hard. They’d cry. They’d fall right off their chair. Next thing I’d hear an alarm go off. And you had to go to school

Just St. Benedicts school.

Yeah, It was long after the formation American Indian movement that my mother told her, her story. Every time she got caught speaking Indian, she had to get down on her hands and knees. It was a little pale of water in those boarding schools where she was kept for nine solid years. And she had a little pale of soaping water. She had to clean the toilets and clean the urinals with all the other kids that gave up their language. The culture were playing outside. Come knock on the window. Angela. I come on, Forget about that language. Come on out, have some fun. She never gave it up and toward the end, toward the end because she never gave it up. It tied sacks of marbles on her knees,=. Hundreds like her in the schools to strip them their language to give it up was so beautiful.

Columbus landed here. What do he say? I come upon a people that have no Bible, no use for a church. They don’t auto cus they don’t know how to swear. They share everything that they have. You ask ’em for their shirt on their back. They’ll take it off right now and give it to you. They told the Queen they they’re perfect. Perfect for rotation. They estimate today there was 16 to 27 million people here. The last massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, there was 240,000 of us left. Jewish people are still here. Dan Snyder should know a little bit about genocide, but there are tribes that have been totally erased on the face of your that’ why we took on this issue. We have to get rid of that type of ignorance and you and academics. You would have all the degrees. I don’t have that. I never made it through the fifth grade. Never made it through the fifth grade. I don’t know how to write a speech. I never wrote a speech in my life. I gotta talk about what I saw and what I’ve learned from tribes all over American, all over the world where I traveled today. That’s where I learned what the real history it’s still there. And it’s available today. You can punch in the computer and find it anywhere in the world. So I want to thank you for this opportunity. I’m deeply honored to have my, my beautiful younger sister have a tremendous amount honor for, for Betty McCollum (Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04),) she’s brought this issue to the forefront and I have to, uh, thank, uh, what was this guy’s name? Don, the guy from the Clippers. What was his name?

(Audience) Don Sterling

Sterling. Somebody asked what I thought about Don’s story. Wow. At least he, this issue forward again for us. We’re gonna have to thank them for that. You know, with what they’ve been doing west for 50, 60 solid years, what they’ve been doing to us. And nobody’s speaking out other than us, what we have to do to rid that our communities of that for our children, unborn generation to come. Miigwech.