Redskins: All in a Name?

wrsPeople across America are debating whether or not the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL) should change their name. Some people find the name offensive, some do not. What do you think the football team should do? Why? What role do you think America’s Native American communities should play in this decision? It would be great to hear from some of the ALF Native American senior fellows.

 

One thought on “Redskins: All in a Name?”

  1. Native American Mascots

    As a Native American I am often asked how I feel about the use of Native Americans names as team mascots. I find it to be an odd question. There was a time in this country when the use of Native American names and symbols was common place and not really thought of in the context of how those names relate to how those names are viewed in the culture as a whole.

    The use of words in any language has power. As humans we communicate ideas, concepts and cultural norms through words. This is where all the common stories we hear as children and experience as adults connect us as a cultural family. Language is what some might call our collective village.

    As complex as our society has become it is without surprise there can come cultural clashes within our cultural collective. Throughout the history of this country there have been cultural clashes that have resulted in the suppression of authority of one cultural group by another. In most cases those cultural minorities have persevered and eventually overcome that suppression to establish power structures that hold them on a more or less equal footing with the dominate cultural groups.

    Unfortunately, this has not been universally true. There are cultural sub-groups in our society that have been suppressed and continue to be suppressed. The Native American cultures of this country have been a prime example of institutionalize suppression. Suppression that comes in all forms and is justified in the cruelest of ways. As Native Americans we are told this is an “Honor” and an “Offering of Respect”.

    When Native American Names are used as mascots it is never done with a sense of honor to Native American culture. It is done with the same intent as all mascots names. It is to allow a given group the chance to rally around a team with the common goal of winning against another team. It is sport. It does not honor the Native American culture. It does not recognize the social economic contributions the Native American culture has given to the American and for that matter the world cultural. The contributions have not been minor.

    Native Americans have contributed in many arenas, including to the language we speak to food we eat and even the concept that individual freedom and personal rights are concepts that have emanated from Native American culture.

    If you wish to offer respect to Native Americans . . . then respect the earth. It is the one place that we all share.

    I say if you choose to honor Native Americans . . . then honor our treaties. Up to now every treaty signed with every Native American Tribe has been broken.

    It is no honor to be relegated the same status as a cat or a dog.

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