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In this delightful column, Garrison Keillor muses about the Cleveland Indians’ decision to change their name to Cleveland Guardians. As a boy, he wanted to be an Indian when the kids played cowboys and Indians.
It’s okay by me that the Cleveland Indians will be the Cleveland Guardians even though “Guardian” is a colorless term and they might’ve done just as well with Employees or Tenants. And “Indians” is hardly a slur. I grew up admiring Indians as a boy and trying to imitate them — I had no desire to be a cowboy, I was an Indian, and I can see how my Indianness was a natural step in wanting to be a writer and not a cog in a corporation. To me, then as now, the real insult is the title “vice president.” My Ojibwe friend Jerry uses the word “Indian” freely because, as he says, “There are too many tribes for even an Indian to keep track of.” I’ve never heard the words “native American” come out of his mouth.
It’s fine for the Washington Redskins to rename themselves, and I suggest, thinking of Washington, that Lickspittles would be appropriate or Filibusterers. As for Minnesota, I was never fond of Twins as a nickname but it’s an improvement over Gophers. The gopher is a rodent, a cousin of the squirrel and rat. There are more distinguished rodents, such as the porcupine or beaver, but the gopher is near the bottom of the gnawing order, along with the hamster. No athletic team will be named the Hamsters. Count on it.
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