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Human rights meeting sets sights on racism

Taking on racism


Charlene Teters, a founder of the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, will be a keynote speaker at the Montana Human Rights Network’s annual conference at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo.

The “Symbols of Racism” conference begins with a reception and dance on Oct. 13 and will run all day Oct. 14. It is co-sponsored by the Flathead Reservation Human Rights Coalition and SKC.

Teters, a member of the Spokane Tribe and the senior editor of Indian Artist magazine, is a national leader in the fight to abolish Indian mascots and offensive names assigned to sports teams. She was the focus of the recent award-winning PBS documentary, “In Whose Honor?,” and is a professor at the Institute of American Indian Art in Santa Fe, N.M. She also was key in establishing the Office of Racial Justice for the National Congress of American Indians.

Organizers say Teters’ presentation is especially timely because the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes recently asked the Hot Springs School District to get rid of its Indian-styled mascot and change the name of its “Savages” athletic teams.

“Our people paid with their very lives to keep what little they have left, and that is what I’m protecting,” Teters says of her ongoing battle against stereotypes and other racism aimed toward Indians. “We are taught to respect eagle feathers, respect the chiefs, respect that paint is sacred, that dance is something sacred to us. If you’re never taught to respect these things, it might not bother you. But if you’ve grown up in the community where those things have meaning, it’s going to have that impact on you.”

Also speaking at the event will be state Rep. Carol Juneau (D-Browning), a Mandan-Hidatsa member of the Three Affiliated Tribes of North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Juneau, a longtime educator and civil rights activist, will be joined by Elouise Cobell, chairwoman of the Blackfeet National Bank and the lead plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against the federal government over mismanagement of tribal trust accounts. A variety of workshops and entertainment is also scheduled.

General registration costs $40 and students can get in for $15. For more information, email or call 675-4800, ext. 418.


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