Hanscom Air Force Base   Right Corner Banner
Join the Air Force

News > Commentary - Did they really just say that?
Did they really just say that?

Posted 11/16/2011   Updated 11/16/2011 Email story   Print story

    


Commentary by Patricia Sabine
Native American Heritage Month committee


11/16/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- Have you ever been involved in a conversation where someone makes a comment that you find to be inappropriate? This type of behavior takes place more than we realize.

The Air Force conducts special observances in order to enhance cross-cultural awareness and promote diversity. These observances not only help us recognize the achievements and contributions made by members of specific racial, religious, ethnic and gender groups in our society, but they also promote mutual respect, understanding, teamwork, harmony, pride and esprit de corps among all groups.

In promoting mutual respect, it is our responsibility to avoid comments or terms which could be perceived as insensitive or even offensive to those around us.

As we celebrate Native American Heritage Month it's important to provide some insight into some commonly used phrases or terms which could be deemed as offensive to Native American Indians.

How many times have you heard the phrases "climbing the totem pole" or "low man on the totem pole?" In corporate America, these comments may be used to either refer to someone who is advancing in his or her career or to someone's position in the organization.

When making these remarks people fail to realize that the meanings of the designs on totem poles are as varied as the cultures that make them. These vertical sculptures may recount familiar legends, clan lineages or notable events. Some poles celebrate cultural beliefs, while others are mostly artistic presentations. It's a myth whether or not there was a specific hierarchy in importance to images carved in totem poles.

Another phrase you may have heard once or twice is "on the warpath." This comment is usually made to refer to someone preparing for or engaged in war or an aggressive pursuit. In actuality, "on the warpath" was the literal path to war taken by Native American Indians when travelling to an enemy's territory to engage in battle. For some, the expression could mean that a person is exceedingly angry and is inclined to take some hostile action against another person.

The last phrase that is often inappropriately used is "let's have a pow-wow." The word pow-wow is actually derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning spiritual leader. A pow-wow is a social gathering for ceremonial purposes to honor American Indian culture. For some Native American tribes, a pow-wow is a spiritual retreat, which includes sacred ceremonies. Using this term out of context to refer to a meeting or a quick get-together with Native American Indian coworkers actually trivializes their beliefs and traditions and could be taken as offensive or disrespectful to their culture.

When conversing with others always remember that the comments you make, while meant well, could be taken as inappropriate, insensitive and sometimes even offensive to the people around you. By refraining from using the phrases mentioned above you will help us create a more inclusive environment that will allow for us to promote mutual respect, understanding, teamwork, harmony, pride and esprit de corps among all groups.



tabComments
No comments yet.  
Add a comment

 Inside Hanscom AFB

ima cornerSearch

tabMission NewsRSS feed 
Hanscom 'pockets' the U.S. to improve homeland defense

AFLCMC commander highlights accomplishments during State of the Center address

James: New acquisition initiative aims to cut costs

Nuclear satellite terminal upgrade to begin operational testing

Focus week set for Jan. 26

Hanscom program officials take center stage at state-sponsored small business forum

JSTARS Recap stands up as division, moves toward MDA approval

tabHanscom NewsRSS feed 
Winter Storm Juno early release and base closure notification to base populace

College planning night scheduled on base

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland selected to host AFIMSC headquarters

Team Hanscom announces quarterly winners

February is African American History Month

Hagel: Fight to end sexual assault must be 'personal'

"Super Frenzy: House Divided" coming to Minuteman Commons

MLK Jr. remembered

Air Force Fitness Management System II up, accessible

tabNews Briefs and HappeningsRSS feed 
Upcoming events

News in Brief

School Notes

tabCommentaryRSS feed 
Resiliency in youth

Former Airman sentenced to 18 years in drunken-driving death tells story  1

tabPhoto FeatureRSS feed 
Photo feature: This week at Hanscom, Jan. 21

tabFeaturesRSS feed 
Hanscom employee saves life

School liaison looks to meet families' educational goals


Site Map      Contact Us     Questions     USA.gov     Security and Privacy notice     E-publishing  
Suicide Prevention    SAPR   IG   EEO   Accessibility/Section 508   No FEAR Act