An Open Letter to Mayor Mike Thoms

An Open Letter to Rock Island Mayor Mike Thoms,

We at Great Plains Action Society (GPAS) see beyond colonial borders. As such, we’re happy to include Illinois in our New Year/New Iowa Open Letter Campaign. In our efforts to make our communities better places, one of our greatest sources of inspiration is our Elders. Our board member and cherished source of wisdom, Regina Tsosie, has taken time to write a letter to Mayor Thoms in regard to the donation of a signage of Black Hawk to a bank. We think this letter is absolutely wonderful and are excited to share it with you and we encourage you to write to Mayor Thom to amplify this message.

Thank you,

Great Plains Action Society

From GPAS Board Member Regina Tsosie:

Mayor Mike Thoms,

My name is Regina Tsosie, President of the Native American Coalition of the Quad Cities, Board member of the Citizens to Preserve Black Hawk Park, Co-founder Sage Sisters of Solidarity, Board member of the Great Plains Action Society, recently retired educator, and a member of the local community for over 38 years.

The recent decision from the Rock Island council to gift the Watch Tower Black Hawk statue to the Black Hawk Bank and Trust has caused great concern and disappointment from the local Native American community and our friends/allies who support us.

Please read our following concerns:

A. Why was the NA community overlooked and not consulted?

B. The BH statue should NOT be given to a for-profit institution/business where exploiting and profiting from an image representing a race of people perpetuates a form of racism which is very offensive and disturbing.

C. Black Hawk State Bank in the past has been notified by local educators that Black Hawk was never given "chief" status according to Sauk traditions. Yet, the bank continues to use the slogan, "Choose the Chief". This trivializes and perpetuates misinformation and misconceptions about a race of people.

D. The current movement of the majority of Native Americans/American Indians/Indigenous Peoples throughout the country regarding the use of NA imagery, mascots, etc., is gaining momentum in the removal of such objects due to the hostile, damaging, and hurtful environment it creates and perpetuates, especially when it involves the well-being of NA/AI/Indigenous children.

E. Critically, the formal position of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation), the only federally recognized Tribal Nation in the state, is categorically “against the use of Native American terms or images or symbols for sports or other marketing uses.” Additionally, other federally recognized Tribal Nations – including the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska – with ties to the state of Iowa have taken similar positions against the use of Native American names, imagery, symbols, and customs as school mascots. So, too, have key Native organizations that serve Native people residing in the state, including the Iowa Commission on Native American Affairs (an excerpt from an open letter written and signed by Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki Nation), Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, National Congress of American Indians and American Indian Council)

If there is an option to reverse the council's decision and create an opportunity to discuss our concerns seeking out well-meaning solutions, that would be the best action.

I am currently in Arizona taking care of family responsibilities for an unforeseeable time, and cannot be there to monitor this situation. But, I have discussed this matter with community members who are in alignment with our concerns.

You may contact me via email or call my personal cell number, [redacted].

In a good way,

Regina Tsosie

President, NACQC