Wilson Pipestem

'Dad, Are They Making Fun of Us?' Being a Parent in the Age of 'Redskins'


Wilson Pipestem is reshaping the ‘R’ word name-change discussion by explaining why tradition should not trump racial sensitivities--especially when it comes to Native youth.  

Pipestem, an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and an Osage headright holder, joined MSNBC’s UP W/Steve Kornacki to discuss why Dan Snyder, the team’s owner, and Roger Goodell, should take the name-change debate suggestions seriously.

Wilson said that two of his children, in the 5th and 7th grades, came home from school one day and asked a profound question about the team’s name.

“Dad, are they making fun of us?”

As the father of four young kids, he knew it would be a discussion that they had to sit down and talk about.

“When you are an Indian parent and you are trying to teach your kids that it is a good thing to be an Indian and should respect other people who are different than us…and you try to teach them that the ceremonial use of paint, and the use of eagle feathers are sacred; and that these are good things, that it makes it more difficult when these sort of things are a part of a significant institution within our society,” Wilson told the panel on MSNBC.

Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians agrees with Wilson. “The welfare and future of our youth is at stake,” she said in earlier news release. “We are working every day to ensure they are able to grow up and thrive in healthy, supportive communities. Removing these harmful mascots is just one part of our effort to encourage our children to achieve their greatest potential.”

The NCAI recently released a 29-page report that explains, in part, the psychological effects that racial slurs and mascot imagery have on Native children. Wilson did not specifically reference the report, but spoke out as a Native parent.

He also said that the AP’s April poll results, which were flashed across MSNBC’s TV screen, would slight as people are confronted with George Preston Marshall’s racist background and the history behind the slur.

“Ignorance is a very powerful enemy. And it’s particularly powerful for Indian people who are fewer in numbers and many of us live in isolated places,” Wilson said. “But I think what we’re seeing is a moral change, and the public is becoming-the society is just becoming more educated on the issues.”

Ultimately, Wilson, a Native American Civil Rights Lawyer, who lives in Washington, D.C., told the panel that the football team would change its name as they become more educated about the team’s history.

“They will realize that when society is confronted with this truth, there is going to be change… ”



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George Nightwalker Sr's picture
George Nightwal...
Submitted by George Nightwal... on
Hopefully the realizations you refer to here Mr. Pipestem, might happen in your children's and my 7 year old grand daughter's lifetimes. It seems doubtful. Have you seen the latest Halloween wear? Creator help all humans to Respect the Great Unknown.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
I've had this conversation with my two granddaughters. Their father is a big football fan and watches the games with his friends. I heard the kids playing outside and calling each other redskins. I took them aside and explained to them that it's NOT a word we use to describe ourselves, but one that was used AGAINST us. I reminded them of the talk we had about using words like Nigger, Chink, Wop, Spic and others, and told them that this word is just like those - not to be used EVER. How pathetic is it when we teach the young in our families to respect all things and all people so that they can live in a world where our culture is ridiculed by drunken sports fans and multi-million dollar corporations?

Valarie Tubinaghtewa, Hopi's picture
Valarie Tubinag...
Submitted by Valarie Tubinag... on
We are having the same discussion in Phoenix, Az. At my son's school they had a "Cowboys vs Indians" day as part of spirit week. Their mascot is the chiefs. He had a meeting with the principal to express his views. She told him "We are not changing the day. We are not changing the mascot." I, my brother, sister in law and a friend met with the principal today. She claimed to be unaware that it was offensive. I reminded her of her position as an educator and stated that it is inexcusable that a school administrator use ignorance as an excuse for approving this activity. People are commenting that we should stop our whining and have directed negative comments at my son. As my son stated, "Its about respect for each other. When we pray we pray for all people, not just us." I can't tell you how proud I am of my son. Bottom line, the dialog has been given new life.

Mitch Battese's picture
Mitch Battese
Submitted by Mitch Battese on
Despite the trend of multicultural education in some school systems, many school texts remain slanted towards stereotypes and prejudices and even worse, there are antiquated ideologies and approaches to teaching that still result in a poor education system for American Indians. Addressing the use of inappropriate mascots is important and confronting the issue head-on by demonstration brings the issue to the public. I applaud the efforts of protesting and other grass roots methods, but it is an atrocious loss that, over the years, our education system has missed the mark completely. Racism is something that is learned and methods of combating racism can be learned as well. The issues are not going away. It would be far easier and commendable for the owners to take the high road and change the Washington Redskins name to something everyone can be proud of, but confrontation and clashes between Indian and non-Indian is so ingrained in American history that, sadly, both sides will end up utilizing tons of resources before the mascot issue is put to rest. Education of non-Indians and Native people who may not realize that mascots, such as “Redskins,” and “Savages” have deep roots in racism, will take time and effort but it is an imperative move in the right direction of making mascots more positive. Simply put, offensive mascots such as “Redskins” are racist and need to change. Lets start with the Tecumseh, Oklahoma high school mascot. The Tecumseh Savages name has been sanctioned by Native Americans on the school board. These Indians need to be educated.

jay t pritchett's picture
jay t pritchett
Submitted by jay t pritchett on
why are u all making abig deal out this we ought to be making a big deal of drug abuse and alcohol. abuse by our children then some stupid logo u have to much time if this is gone on inside your brain gee get a job or stand up for our kids

Marj Stevens's picture
Marj Stevens
Submitted by Marj Stevens on
Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald cited the study done by Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant Professor at the Universary of Arizona who has studied the effects of the team names and imagery on Native American students. She found empirical proof that those names and imagery lead to lowered self-esteem and sense of comunnity worth and damages aspirations and heighten anxiety and depression. Look up his commentary titled "The Curse of Redskins".