After reading recent news about Mayor Emily Larson’s intention to remove the word “chief” from the titles of Duluth city employees in the near future, I felt compelled to write (“Council tables title change: Councilor questions whether term ‘chief’ is offensive,” June 23).
I want to make very clear I have the utmost respect for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas. They are noble and resilient peoples who have endured what most of us could not.
“Chief” is not a Native American term. It is a word with origins in Latin, as “caput,” meaning “head.” It moves to Old French as “chief” and then to Middle English as “chief.” The word literally means “head,” as in head of a tribe, a clan, or any other group.
When Europeans encountered the Native American peoples, they used the word “chief” to address whomever was determined to be the group leader. It was a title of respect while the settlers began to know the Indigenous peoples. Only when the Indigenous peoples began to learn English did they start to use the word “chief.” “Chief” is a word that European settlers lent to Native Americans.
Larson’s misguided attempt to erase the word “chief” from the rolls of Duluth city employees is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction to the madness that has recently gripped America.
So Larson wants to erase “chief” from the rolls of Duluth employees? Maybe she ought to do some research into the origins of such words. Like the word “mayor.” It has its origins in the Latin word “major,” meaning “greater, better, superior.” Perhaps she should look in the mirror and ask if she is worthy of such a title.
Education is important and must be practiced.