An official at the U.S. Naval Academy strongly is urging officers to no longer refer to the exercise "Indian runs" as such in order not to offend Native Americans, according to a series of emails sent from the academy’s equal opportunity adviser and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Master Chief Christopher Gary informed all officers at the USNA complex in a May 14 email slugged, "Seriously Folks—This is Stereotyping," that it is not appropriate to use the term "Indian run" in reference to the jogging exercise in which midshipmen run single file, and the man in the rear of the line sprints to the front, a process which is then repeated.
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"The term ‘Indian Run’ is used to describe the alternating sprint exercises at various levels here at the Academy, and it is widely used among the public," Gary wrote in the May 14 email. "I hope all can already see the problem with this, but let me be clear, this is a form of stereotyping."
Gary told the Free Beacon in an interview that while there is no officially sanctioned term for the exercise, he sent the email as a way to open up dialogue among USNA leaders.
"It was something internal to say, ‘Hey, can we come up with something different?’ " Gary said. "I thought, ‘Hey, lets discuss this among the leadership here.’"
Gary’s email comes as Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren finds herself in deep water for claiming she has Cherokee Indian heritage.
Gary’s missive goes on to explain that while the term "Indian run" is commonplace, many in the institution are likely to find it offensive—and that it could cause the USNA an unneeded political headache.
"The simple question is often the tip of the iceberg; as with icebergs, its what's underneath that has sunk many ships," he wrote. "I am asking everyone to revisit practices that may have caused you to pause, so we can keep our ship afloat.
I'm also seeking input on an alternative name for these sprints."
In a subsequent email sent Tuesday, Gary offered several alternatives to the supposedly offensive phrase, among them "back to front sprints," "drafting sprints," "speed intervals," and "leap frogs."
Gary also noted that he received "52 emails in response" to his initial request.
Some of those who offered Gary feedback accused him of acting like the so-called "PC police."
"People warned me about being overly sensitive," Gary said. "I understand their concerns, but we can’t fix everything. It’s just something to look into."
"Several made attempts at establishing the term's origin; two cautioned against being overly sensitive; and one, who self reported as being of Native American descent, said he was always offended by the term, but didn't speak out because he just wanted to fit in," Gary wrote in the May 15 email. "We may not have the ability to remedy every concern that comes our way, but should be willing to address them. What the responses overwhelmingly show is that many of you are at least willing to consider things you might not have otherwise."
Earlier today, Gary sent out another email apologizing for his use of the term "leap frogs"—a term that he speculates could be seen as offensive to the French.
"It was brought to my attention this morning that the term ‘frog’ was used as a slur to refer to Franco-Americans," he wrote. "There is ample information to support this concern. Under the list of alternatives I offered for ‘Indian Runs’, please strike from the list ‘Leap Frogs.’"
Gary said he was simply looking to open "an opportunity for dialogue and to be reasonable and just look at it."