Dozens of students sat down inside of the University Student Union Ballroom, patiently waiting for the screening of the film “More Than a Word” along with a lecture from guest speaker James Fenelon Wednesday night.
The night began with Native American music by staff who were playing with a drum and singing along in the Dakotah and Lakota languages. Among the staff who played was Art Neri, Terrance Honanie, Craig Stone, Jorge Reyes, Judge Gilbert Lopez, Pat Lopez and Anna Nazarian-Peters.
The event was hosted by the American Indian Student Council, American Indian Student Services and Office of Multicultural Affairs and acted as the closeout event for Native American Heritage Month.
“More Than a Word” provided a way for viewers to learn about the importance behind the history of the football team, Washington Redskin’s name and the derogatory nature of the term “Redskins.” The film also touched on the cultural appropriation of Native Americans and their culture.
Chair of American Indian Studies, professor Craig Stone, noted the importance of knowing why the mascot is offensive to Native American people.
“The film is about racialized mascots. There has been a long history of any human mascot being understood as problematic by a group that was persecuted,” Stone said. “In the California State University system we are trying to change our policies so that we don’t have any human mascot.”
Stone also talked about the the Prospector Pete statue being removed from the Long Beach State plaza after controversy regarding its symbol of genocide due to its connection to the 1849 gold rush and the genocidal impact it had on indigenous people.
“Prospector Pete is associated with the gold rush that is associated with genocide on Indians,” Stone said. “It then becomes associated with other statues from the colonial period.”
Admission was free and open to anyone who was interested. Guests were able to enjoy the movie along with snacks such as cookies, chips, tangerines and water bottles.
After the film screening, guest speaker James Fenelon talked about the history of Native Americans and the persecution they faced in the past.
“The film brings in historical issues. You begin to see that the title in “More Than a Word” is not just a mascot. Students can see how this apply to their studies,” Fenelon said. “These images, icons and ideologies are connected to a genocide that the dominant society basically denies and that is really important for students to get in contact with.”
“What I like about the film was that it addressed how the term Redskins is a racial slur and how it is still accepted today,” student council member and fourth-year kinesiology major Alexandra Contreras said. “I like coming to these events and I like people to come so they can know the history and what is still going on today and how they are still fighting for Washington to change the mascot name.”
An attendee, Derrick Coleman, also added that the film presented an interesting perspective to a long-time issue.
“I like how they made comparisons between discrimination versus Native Americans and other cultures and how we do not see mascots as discrimination because it has been ingrained in the culture for so long,” Coleman said.