ActivismIn Wake of Washington 'Redskins' Rebranding, Montanans Rethinking 'Indian'...

In Wake of Washington ‘Redskins’ Rebranding, Montanans Rethinking ‘Indian’ Patch on Law Enforcement Uniform


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Montana is not immune to progressive bandwagons attracting the attention of radicals across the country, especially in Gallatin County. As the woke flavor du jour over the last week has been erasing names, logos, or mascots that refer to indigenous peoples, Sheriff Brian Gootkin says he’s reconsidering a patch on the department’s uniform which contains the facial profile of an Indian man. Oddly enough, Sheriff Gootkin also acknowledges that literally no one complained about the patch, but he’s being pro-active in the wake of the Washington Redskins changing their name and mascot.

The image of what appears to be an Indian warrior or chief with feathers seems to be a mystery to Montana lawmen. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that Sheriff Tony Harbaugh of Custer County removed a similar image from his department’s crest, and former Gallatin County Sheriff, John Onsted, was at a loss to explain its meaning or origin. Some have suggested, including Gallatin County Museum research coordinator, Rachel Phillips, that the patch has been present for at least 70 years.

Hearing about the Sheriff’s public opining on the image sparked a comment from the head of the Native American Studies Department at Montana State University, Walter Flemming. Flemming told the press, “We do know that American Indians represent a higher than average population in the state justice system. It does lend itself to thinking about the inequities in the judicial system.”

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Flemming argued that it didn’t matter how innocently the image appeared on department logos, or even if it was intended to be complementary to Native Americans. He said, “What may have been seen as an innocent gesture, because of circumstances of lately, have taken a negative turn.”

Gootkin seemed to show at least some caution before throwing history to the wind, however, and added, “You don’t mess with history until you know about it. So I want to educate myself.”

Gallatin County is not the only law enforcement agency in Montana with the logo, however. A search reveals that Yellowstone County and other agencies also have the Indian logo on its department uniforms (above).

There seems to be actual law enforcement work that would require the attention of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department, however. The city of Bozeman has a crime index of 23, meaning that it is safer than only 23% of cities of comparable size in the United States. It has 111 violent crimes per year and 1,017 property crimes. The department resources might be better spent than researching the meaning of a patch or evaluating its political correctness.


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