Near the end of the year, the production team for Dodging
Bullets was given the opportunity to sit down with Tara Houska,
Anishinaabe and a member of Couchiching First Nation, is an attorney
from Washington D.C. and founding member of Not
Your Mascots. Being from a Native American heritage, Houska
was an excellent source of information and credibility behind the
debate over the use of the Washington Redskins name and mascot.
She was able to concisely and passionately explain the harms that
have come from the use of this particular mascot, and helped paint
a vivid portrait of how this mascot does not honor Native American
culture, rather how it is damaged it.
Tara Houska was born and raised in International Falls, MN.
Her birth mother are father are both Native American and her step-father
is Norwegian, giving her a unique perspective into growing up looking
Native American, while her siblings looked white. In our interview,
Houska discusses how this unique insight played into the woman she
is today, and why she takes a stand to protect the Native American
culture and sense of identity. She is especially adamant about these
changes because she does not want Native children today to grow
up viewing their culture the way she did, seeing Native Americans
as caricatures, mascots, and costumes on Halloween and Thanksgiving.
She shared with us, how as a child these exact examples gave her
a sense of shame in being Native American; how it is even ingrained
in our education system, this inability to recognize the humanity
of Natives. We teach children in grade school to make paper headdresses,
put paint on their face, and smack their mouth while wielding a
toy tomahawk. Houska, relates this to wearing black face, making
a point that she doesn't see the difference. We don't allow black
face because it is wrong, yet we still allow redskin. Tara points
out that this doesn't teach honor, it teaches that Native American's
are perceived as funny characters that the majority don't really
understand or try to teach the true history of.
The topic of Historical Trauma, it seemed was not the focus
of Houska's interview, until she began talking about the Boarding
school era, and how it has effected multiple generations of Native
families the experienced it. She plainly states that the boarding
school era was a way for the US government to "Kill the Indian and
save the man", and how this plan backfired horribly. She then relates
directly back to what we had been talking about prior, which is
the mascot debate, and the loss of cultural identity. Houska explains
that the boarding school era, and what we are debating now, is not
so different. She concedes that one was extremely violent and resulted
in deaths of individuals as well as culture, but she points out
that the result, even today is the same. Native American's, during
the boarding school era, and today, are being told that they and
their culture are worthless, caricatures. The loss of identity and
respect for your culture she believes is one of the main, if not
the main reason why Native American's are still struggling with
Historical Trauma today.
Tara Houska is an extremely bright and intelligent person to
sit down and listen to. The passion for the issues she represents
is palpable. She speaks with emotion and truth as her tools for
change. She provides some of the best real world examples of problems
faced by Native Americans plagued with Historical Trauma, from the
perspective of someone who was caught between the two worlds. She
sees a need for change, and she knows that change is needed.
Not Your Mascots is committed to addressing the misappropriation
of indigenous identity and imagery caused by mascots, stereotypes
and racist behaviors as well as the harmful effect that they have
on indigenous youth and communities.
A Documentary Film on Historical TraumaDodging Bullets focuses
on documenting historical trauma and learned helplessness among
the Indigenous North American youth and the effort to facilitate
behavior change in the areas of substance abuse, suicide and diabetes.