Sports


G&T guest column: To true Redskins nations, nickname is source of pride

SUNDAY, JUNE 22, 2014

Poll after poll investigating Americans’ opinions of the NFL Redskins name finds that the vast majority of us are not offended. However, there is a vocal minority of those who claim they are offended.

For them, I offer this simple explanation. Redskins do exist and they’re not offended.

The “red skinned” tribes proudly painted themselves this way to go into battle or for ceremonial reasons. And, amongst the natives I’ve interviewed on this topic there’s two common claims: they love their affiliation with the NFL team name, and they feel that white liberals are yet again trying to take something else from them as has been the case for hundreds of years.

These natives describe themselves as Red-skinned, Red People or Painted People, and they are/were traditionally located in a swath stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the upper east coast regions of the United States and into Canada. Examples include the Algonquian, Choctaw, Houma, Beothuk and Cherokee to name a few. However, it’s important to know that not all “Indians” describe themselves as Red-skinned people – only certain tribes do, or did so. A key issue here is that it’s the Oneida – a tribe that doesn’t consider themselves “Redskin” or as a “Red” nation – who are making what seems to be an illogical and highly uniformed stink over false perceptions of racism.

Clearly the Oneida are a separate “nation” from those who claim Redskin heritage and, per the opinion of Redskinned natives, have no say on the issue of the team’s name. It’s like the British (as a different nation) complaining or finding offense with the American NFL name “Patriot” – it’s not Britain’s business to complain about a team specific to our nation. Nor is it the Oneida “nation’s” business to complain about the Redskins “nation’s” name.

Further, the “changer movement” to include the Seattle Times sports page, seems to follow the false concept that “all Indians are the same and should be equally offended by the NFL team name” clearly dismisses the fact that even the U.S. government – keeper of the U.S. Trademark Office – recognizes that there are nearly 600 independent native nations who have their own culture, history and taxonomy. Thus, it’s a non sequitur to lump them all together as “Indians” and then argue Redskins “racism” on behalf of a “whole.”

What looks to be most offensive to natives is the name-changing movement’s tendency to homogenize and minimize the unique characteristics of hundreds of independent “Indian” cultures – especially the recent phenomena which has seemingly uninformed Caucasian national leaders, such as Harry Reid, blissfully attacking the unique history and pride of our nation’s “Red” tribes as if they’re doing these natives a favor.

Unique and independent for thousands of years, Redskin “nations” exist and are not, by this author’s research, offended by the NFL’s use of the name Redskins as a cultural honorarium.

Clearly, one native nation shouldn’t be offended by what gives another nation pride nor should the government both recognize tribal nation’s independence while at the same time publically tear away at their cultural icons.

The Redskins moniker is an appropriate and positive use for an NFL football team. Eighty-two years ago the nascent team put its naming convention money where its proverbial mouth was in featuring four Native American players and hiring a beloved coach with strong ties to the Sioux nation. Then, like today, the team represents and supports the very best of Native American culture and should be promoted, not vilified.

Andre Billeaudeaux is a published writer and a speaker on issues such as racism, cultural norms and communications. He’s just authored the forthcoming book: How the Redskins Got Their Name.


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