Statement by Sen. Paul Wellstone

American Indian Forum on Racism in Sports & Media
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2001
Black Bear Crossing, St. Paul, Minn.

Paul Wellstone, U.S. Senator from Minnesota

"I'm proud to be here as a U.S. Senator.

"We have, in Minnesota and in our country, learned a great deal from the Native American people. And two of the most significant lessons are the importance of symbol and vision. We know for example how symbolic the eagle and eagle feather is--strength, soaring to even greater heights, freedom. We know how symbolic the buffalo is, nurturing the community with all necessities--food clothing and shelter.

"These symbols speak to the very soul of the people. In addition, during all the years when the policy of the United States government was to eliminate the Native American culture, the language, religion and ritual, one of the things that held the community together was a vision of itself. A vision of its culture and its place as stewards on this earth. The vision of this self continues to power this strong Native American community.

"This conference on racism in sports is a primer on the importance of symbols and vision. By distorting and by bastardizing sacred symbols we cut at the very soul of a people. We can do better in our country. We can focus on the vision of a proud and dignified people. A people with a rich tradition. And we can honor that tradition by respecting its symbols. We must as a nation and as a country respect these symbols because we know what bastardizing them does to children and the vision of themselves.

"When children have symbols that make them proud and give them dignity and know they can live lives with honor then that's what they do. And when the symbols undercut that hope and that vision and that strength in children that is a cruel thing to do , it is the wrong thing to do, and that's why we have this conference here.

"I hope and I pray that this conference is enlightening and helpful. And as a result of this we will soar just a bit higher with the eagle."