A Belgian Eye – Episode 107

Our resident Belgian Philippe Persoons takes a look at life through a Belgian Eye. Why are we talking about Cowboys and Indians in Belgium? Let’s find out . . . . . . .

Hello and welcome on a Belgian Eye

Have you ever played cowboy and Indian? I mean not recently, but way back in your childhood. And do you remember who were the good guys and who were the bad? Personally I preferred to be the Indian. I don’t know why but there seemed to be more honour in it, more bravery.

I just ask, because I was quite surprised on the critic from overseas on the logo of the Ghent Football team. the logo shows the image of an Indian’s head. A brave proud American Native with Feather Head.

There’s nothing wrong with the man, to my opinion he stands for bravery, cleverness, a respectful underdog, -what Ghent used to be-, but always catching up in the end.

The complaints came from the native American rights campaigner Suzan Shown Harjo. She wants the club to remove the image and to get rid of the mascots, Buffalo Ben and Squaw Mel.

Suzan Shown Harjo has been campaigning for the rights of Native Americans for over 40 years. Some of those campaigns concerned sport clubs with images of Indians, -or Native Americans-, in their logo. To her mind, the images are degrading. She campaigned against three thousand teams and more than two thousand have changed logo, name or mascot.

And now she knocks on the door of AA Gent. The logo of the Ghent football team dates back to 1924 and is a reference to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. This show was performed several times in Ghent at the end of the nineteenth century. The audience was encouraged to shout “Buffalo! Buffalo! Buffalo, which was picked up in the end by students and became quite common in the years after at parties and events in Ghent.

To be honest we Belgians know nothing about that American history. An ‘Indian’ is no ‘Native American’ in our eyes, it’s just a major person in the films we saw and in the games we played. And yes we were always proud to play the ‘Indian’.

But the issue on the word “squaw” is a different matter. Ms. Harjo taught us some English for we thought that “squaw” was a common word for a native American woman. Apparently not, it seems to be a derogatory term for female genitalia.

Ok, dear Americans Natives, please accept our humble apologies, for we Belgians we didn’t knew better. From now on we’ll drop the squaw.

AA Ghent already announced last week that they won’t talk about her anymore. At the other hand, they will not change logo or banish the mascot.

And I agree! Please accept that in simple Belgian minds, the Native American has no relation with our ‘Indian’. The ‘Indian’ that we talk about may have had some inspiration from the history of American Natives, but our Indian is a fictional hero, derived from film, old Hollywood and from the games we played on the school yard.

We are proud of our Buffalo Indian, just like we are proud of our Manneke Pis peeing in the streets of Brussels, Fonske pouring wisdom in his head in Leuven, or Brabo throwing the giant’s hand in the river.

Just don’t take it all too seriously, we Belgians we don’t do that either.

Relax and have a nice day.