The Redskins Issue: An Internal Discussion and Question, Please Repost

Gyasi Ross
10/16/13

I’ve kinda stayed away from this topic, but I want to give a few thoughts.  It’s been interesting to watch as this topic has gained more steam, and it’s been encouraging to see more Natives get interested in it. 

That’s a positive step.

But what’s been discouraging is the reliance that some of our people have on the non-Native liberal champions of the Redskins discussion.  Who cares?  The Natives who want this discussion to happen should care 100% more about what Native people think about the Redskins, and whether the name is offensive, than what non-Natives think about the Redskins.  I don’t know why the champions of this cause haven’t thought about bringing this discussion to us, to the people who are the actual stakeholder in this discussion.  Natives. 

ALL Natives, not just a few.

Think about it: why hasn’t there been any polling, that originated from Natives, about if the Redskins mascot/name is offensive to you?  Native people are smart enough and capable to make our own decisions without someone determining for us.  NOBODY—whether they are pro-Redskins or anti-Redskins—should be speaking for you and saying what is offensive to you. 

We are the stakeholders—so I couldn't care less if Bob Costas thinks it’s offensive.  I couldn't care less if Keith Olbermann or Barack Obama or any non-Native thinks it’s offensive.  I also couldn't care less if Rick Reilly DOESN’T think it’s offensive or Dan Snyder doesn’t think that it’s offensive.  I care what Junior, in Laguna Pueblo, thinks.  I care what Thomasina, in Crow Agency, thinks.  I care what Chuckie, on the Suquamish Reservation, thinks. I care what Dustin, on the Blackfeet Reservation, thinks. I care what Native people think—that should be where we start. I don’t want to assume that I know what my people think—that’s what white people have done historically.  That’s a very patriarchal, white thing to do.

I see a few Natives get excited on social media—“Yay, Bob Costas agrees with us”—while not taking the time/caring enough to find out what our own people actually think. 

I get sick of us—Native people—valuing the opinion of non-Natives more than we value the opinions of our own people.  That’s internalized racism against ourselves. 

I don’t think anybody should be speaking for us.  Forget these non-Natives having an opinion on what should be an INTERNAL DISCUSSION.  This is like outsiders telling Black folks that the word “nigger” should be offensive to them—that’s a discussion that we should have within our communities before other people start jumping to conclusions. Therefore, to those Natives that want to change the name, I suggest you ask Native people first (much respect to the Oneida Nation for actually doing some checking to see how our people felt first—that’s exactly what should happen).  I have my own thoughts and opinions on the matter, and I’ll share those very soon, but I want to know what our people think first. 

So I’m going to practice what I preach—Please respond to Gyasi.ross@gmail.com or on twitter to @BigIndianGyasi—please write 1) which tribe you come from, and 2) what your thoughts are.  Please forward and repost this post—I will post my results.  I want to hear what Native people actually think on this topic—that is where this discussion should have actually started:

Is the Redskins mascot/logo offensive to you?  Would you like the team to change the team name?

Thank you.  Hunyah.

Gyasi Ross
Blackfeet Nation Enrolled/Suquamish Nation Immersed
Activist/Attorney/Author
Pre-order new Book, "How to Say I Love You in Indian," coming December!
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi
www.cutbankcreekpress.com

 

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swrussel's picture
swrussel
Submitted by swrussel on
While I agree with your general statement, Gyasi, in the matter of the name of the Washington team name, I don't give a rat's hind end for anybody's opinion of the name. I don't care who is or isn't offended or what anybody thinks. I care about real harm to real children. There is evidence that harm exists, and those who discount that evidence need to offer alternative explanations for our children's lack of success in school in addition to the obvious resource deficiencies our kids share with others. The precautionary principle teaches that if there's even a chance the evidence of harm to children is correct, it would take some really robust social good to justify doing that harm. I don't see any social good in mascotting that justifies even the slightest risk of harm to real children, and I remain puzzled why anybody's opinion or whether anybody is offended one way or the other should be a factor? If kids are being harmed, I don't care what Snyder thinks and I don't care what Joe Rezdog thinks either. It needs to stop.

sam. george's picture
sam. george
Submitted by sam. george on
I don't know?? I'm 69 years old and have been watching all kind of sports most of my life. Never ever thought any of them were offensive. Today we have so many wannabes. Think the ones who should be stopped are the ones who go around calling themselves shamen and are selling our ceremonys that were shared to them so freely. drums rattles for 500. sweatlodges for over 10,000. And it's happening everywhere. Incidently I am a proud full blooded Squamish born aboriginal. Living here in Canada. Also I have been watching sports on tv ever since it was invented, over 50 years ago. even then the redskins, indians, chiefs, etc. were in exsistence and never thought anything about it then and still don't. I have also witnessed this same thing surface time and time again but nothing has ever changed. If one really must bitch about something why not on how there are so many unemployed, uneducated, hungry, suicidal, homeless, Inians, natives, aboriginals there are these days. Remember, they, the white people, made lots of promises because they were scared of us. I have better things to direct my energises to.

Mac's picture
Mac
Submitted by Mac on
It seems illogical to me that on one hand us wasicus are lectured about how bad our ancestors were and in many cases how bad we are and that we should take the time to learn history and be a change for good, Then when some of us do, you criticize us for taking a stand against racist attitudes. You don't care what non natives think? Well good luck with that. But most of my native friends appreciate my efforts at learning and supporting them in their struggles. I don't know if you got to stand in line and pick what race you wanted to be born into but I didn't. All I can do is learn the truth and try to be a better human. Don't care what I think? Tell me again then why I should care?

Liz Salway-Littlecreek's picture
Liz Salway-Litt...
Submitted by Liz Salway-Litt... on
Enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota tribe as well as half Eastern Shoshone, residing in Fort Washakie, WY. My opinion is besides being a diehard Washington Redskins fan, as well as the majority of my family, there is nothing that offends me about the team name "REDSKINS". I feel like people can make their own opinions and say whatever they want to about this issue, but that's all it is, an opinion. As native people we deal daily with issues effecting our homelands and people, this is not a life or death situation.

Screaming Eagle's picture
Screaming Eagle
Submitted by Screaming Eagle on
There has been polling using Native Americans. The Native American center I work out of has did it.

Screaming Eagle's picture
Screaming Eagle
Submitted by Screaming Eagle on
There has been polling using Native Americans. The Native American center I work out of has did it.

Linda Kapusciarz's picture
Linda Kapusciarz
Submitted by Linda Kapusciarz on
I respect your point of view. I was taught to never address or refer to someone in this way. MLK said it so we'll; judges not by their color but by their character. Just a white person, say in'.

Cathy Bell
Cathy Bell
Submitted by Cathy Bell on
I posted a reply to your Deadspin article which basically said it doesn’t matter what Bob Costas or Christine Brennan thinks. Whether redskin is a racial slur depends on (1) whether it is intended as a slur, which evidence indicates it is not, and (2) whether it is perceived by Natives as a slur, which all the evidence I have seen, including from Change the Mascot, indicates only by those few radical activists who are offended by all depictions of Natives. I said somebody needs to do a survey to find out whether Natives are offended by it before deciding whether or not it is offensive to Natives. I’m glad to see you are doing just that. I’m not a Native because my Cherokee ancestor chose to marry a white man and stay on Cherokee land rather than being herded up by Captain Payne and marched off to Oklahoma, so she wasn’t listed on the Dawes Roll. I find the name of Ft. Payne, Alabama far more racially offensive than the name Washington Redskins. I can’t speak to whether Natives are offended by the word redskins. I shouldn’t be counted in your survey. But as a white, I don’t want to see Native references removed from sport, because it will make them even more invisible than they already are. When my son was a preschooler we moved to Memphis and went to a baseball game. The team name was the Chicks, short for Chickasaws. My son asked me why the team was named after an Indian tribe. I explained that the one thing all the fans of the team had in common was that we all lived on land taken from the Chickasaws. Native references used in sports is often the only reminder white people have that Natives exist. Sports teams are named after Lions, Bears, and Eagles, not Bunnies, Guppies, and Canaries. They are named after meat packers, steel workers, cowboys, and boiler makers, not bank tellers, accountants, and lawyers. They are named after Indians, not whites or blacks for the same reason. I’m sure there are plenty of Natives that don’t fit the stereotype of courage and resiliency in the face of incredible adversity, but I think that is the stereotype that motivates the people who name sports teams Redskins, Indians, or Braves.

Eagles CowBoys 's picture
Eagles CowBoys
Submitted by Eagles CowBoys on
So if every word offends someone do we have to change it also? There has to be a point where you look and say I'm a big boy now and I wear big boy pants. But I know you all are stuck in a small world with a small minds let it go you will be ok. Maybe travel the world some and get a bigger picture of things in the real world.

karen meyers's picture
karen meyers
Submitted by karen meyers on
You are right on all accounts.What does it matter what the rest of the world thinks.It is we ourselves think.

pletcherste's picture
pletcherste
Submitted by pletcherste on
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nonfedindian's picture
nonfedindian
Submitted by nonfedindian on
The results of your poll will be near worthless to show the opinions of Natives. Nothing against your poll but any such poll relies on self-identification as a Native and, imagine this, there are actually people who will lie outright about being Native and there are others who honestly believe they are Native simply because they want to be. The only honest way you can present your findings is with a caveat that they are the results of a poll answered by those who self-identify as Native American.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
I am more worried about the alcohol that is killing our people and drugs, lack of employment and dysfunctional families because of it...I am a proud Red man grandson of Chief Heavy Runner...It would be nice if the Washington Redskins helped my struggling Boxing Club Blackfeet Nation Boxing Club in Browning Montana, I work with high-risk young people here, so if The Washington Redskins want to do something positive help our kids...

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Good for you Gyasi, you are spot on in your article.It is and always should be how it comes down onto the little ones.. And I love your beautiful use of the English language. Instead of "I could care less", which seems to be a common ritual these days, you use the proper.. "I couldn't care less". Btw, I am from the "White tribe". lol All the best to you my friend...

Bhronda's picture
Bhronda
Submitted by Bhronda on
The error in this reasoning is presuming you can tell who is native and who is not. Remember many of us were subject to genocide and claim other identities in many parts of this country. Those of you who are able to parade around as "Natives" are granted this privilege with the sacrifice of those who have not been afforded the same luxury. What we want to focus on in supporting the argument is gathering support from across many spectrums. Further all natives would never agree.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous
Submitted by Anonymous on
Thank you I have enjoyed reading an educated and heartfelt post such as your and thank you for asking it does not offend me only because i have been conditioned to this crap, I really feel and think there are other things that should be taken a look at first such as teen suicide in Native lands, economical poverty on Indian reservations. Meth abuse, re entry feeding and caring for our elders and children, Native women of domestic violence ect....

Ursula 's picture
Ursula
Submitted by Ursula on
If it sounds derogatory even if a compliment is given? Put it into words rather than just the word and you'll get your answer. "Look at that redskin's hair. It's beautiful!"

Rhonda Willmott's picture
Rhonda Willmott
Submitted by Rhonda Willmott on
It is demeaning and children internalize it at a very young age. It is time for Native Americans to become adult about this and demand better treatment.

Grannybug's picture
Grannybug
Submitted by Grannybug on
The children need positive not negative, all people need to respect all children. They are our future. The heck with opinions, the right thing needs to be done now.

Grannybug's picture
Grannybug
Submitted by Grannybug on
The children need positive not negative, all people need to respect all children. They are our future. The heck with opinions, the right thing needs to be done now.

Pamela Lotts's picture
Pamela Lotts
Submitted by Pamela Lotts on
I am very proudly of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, and yes I find it very offensive just as I did the term when is was used in old movies. I also find the Atlanta Braves offensive in a different sort of way, as it does not take a brave man to whack a ball with a wodden bat.

Elaine Prior's picture
Elaine Prior
Submitted by Elaine Prior on
Best of luck. I hope you get lots of responses so us white people will have a clue about what's best for Native American children.

sandra kay lanz-clark's picture
sandra kay lanz...
Submitted by sandra kay lanz... on
Thank you for your words. This is how it should be for all people. We are all created by one creator and He thought differences were good. Why cant we understand this and viva la difference The natives have always been a "project" for the white man and it is about time they stand up for themselves and not just about a football logo. thanks for your blog. There is much bigger issues than this.

sandra kay lanz-clark's picture
sandra kay lanz...
Submitted by sandra kay lanz... on
Thank you for your words. This is how it should be for all people. We are all created by one creator and He thought differences were good. Why cant we understand this and viva la difference The natives have always been a "project" for the white man and it is about time they stand up for themselves and not just about a football logo. thanks for your blog. There is much bigger issues than this.

sandra kay lanz-clark's picture
sandra kay lanz...
Submitted by sandra kay lanz... on
Thank you for your words. This is how it should be for all people. We are all created by one creator and He thought differences were good. Why cant we understand this and viva la difference The natives have always been a "project" for the white man and it is about time they stand up for themselves and not just about a football logo. thanks for your blog. There is much bigger issues than this.

Native chick's picture
Native chick
Submitted by Native chick on
the use of Redskins for this or any other team has never bothered me, a few of my friends and I we just have a good chuckle and start discussing issues about our little community that we live in and what changes could be made, then on to enviromental and the impact it will have on the next generations the legacy that we are leaving for our grandkids kinda sad the mess they will have to clean up,> This is mor of concern to me then what a group of guys running around with pads and a helmet.

Chuck Morelli's picture
Chuck Morelli
Submitted by Chuck Morelli on
I become aware of these issues as they arise, I've family & friends with native blood & listen to them carefully when topics ,like this, arise. If it annoys or hurts them, it should & does offend &hurt me, but I let them lead & follow along with my heart & spirit ,if folks wish to risk their peace by claiming thin skin is a reason for the battle ,remember that what was brought to these shores how it was brought & why it was brought is a weight that all who've profited by also carry in a debt,whether they know it or not... my rule of thumb is try to keep all living things in the perspective of ,at least equal, because cause & effect is, for lack of a better word 'God.' Peace*

Dr. Erich Longie's picture
Dr. Erich Longie
Submitted by Dr. Erich Longie on
I'm a tribal member from Spirit Lake Nation and I think the Redskins logo and mascots are offensive as all other other Indian logo and mascot are. If you don't think so just try to name a team Blackskins and see how quick the Blacks take issue with it. While I agree with you other people should not tell us what to think I do appreciate all the non-Indians who agree with me that the Redskins logo is racist and are willing to speak up about it. Just like I am willing to speak up in defense of other ethnic groups who I think are being subjected to racist treatment. In my opinion, if you are worried that non-Indians are telling us what is racist and what isn't, then maybe you are paying to much attention to those non-Indian logo lovers who use that phase to put other non-Indians who support us on the defensive. It's a very clever argument and it appears to working on you. It is well documented that Indians (and other minorities) with a victim/oppressed mentality will approve of racist behavior because that is the nature of their mental affection. So polls on this issue are often misleading. Finally, and I have to ask this question, are you being paid by someone to garner up support from Indians for the Redskins name?

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