A Troublemaker's Take on 'Redskins': White Dudes Playing Dress-Up

Alex Jacobs

As a troublemaker I’ve always been ambivalent about the Redskins epithet, because I identify with the redskin that will kill a white dude, scalp him and raise the bloody trophy along with an ear-piercing victory war whoop. Did I make that ritual up? No, it has somehow become ingrained inside of me and millions of others. That’s one of the main reasons we rez and urban NDNs call ourselves "skins."

What's terrible are the drunken revelry and total disrespect that the painted-and-befeathered fans engage in. It has become normal behavior in stadiums, parking lots and bars. They’re also spouting, screaming and whooping as they dump their manly angst and neo-tribal anger at the perception that “we” are taking away “their” sacred traditions. They project this onto real Native Americans who are protesting the whole scene by saying “you” are abusing and degrading “our” sacred traditions. They're ours! No, they're ours! Who’s right? Well, isn’t that America? I got mine (even if I stole it) now you get yours!

All this started out years ago when this bile would be dumped on the occasional Native family attending a game who weren’t aware of the potential for humiliation or embarrassment caused by drunken fans. Some urban Indians decided to do something about it, because it was their families who were being affected. Do these Redskin (or other Indian-named teams) fans consider the noble redman and the honest historical symbology portrayed by the original inhabitants of the nation and its capital? No, I think that’s a fall-back position. It’s the only “honor” argument they have.

I think their minds conjure bloodthirsty savages giving no quarter to enemies. They think of a redskin killing a white dude too! Do the actual players act out savage redskin behavior on the field in touchdown celebrations? Hell No! Because they know the consequences. And why don’t we hear the fight song, Hail to the Redskins!, when we watch TV games? And what about the cheerleaders? Why aren’t they called the Red Squawettes or Buckskin Princesses? Well, we know why: Because all hell would break loose. I understand that owner Dan Snyder has stopped fans from bringing in signs. Could it be they know what kind of stupid jibber-jabber and racist rhetoric their crazy-ass fans would flash on national TV broadcasts? And let’s go back to the original sin: the drunken fans! Alcohol isn’t just the bane or plight of the Native American. I guess it’s a tradition.

Ever since the Boston Tea Party, white dudes have been acting out by dressing up as Indians in modified burlap sacks, feathers in their hair and painted faces. The Dutch farmers of early New York State also dressed up as these Mohawk Indians to abuse state tax collectors, send a message and hide their identities. So there’s that tradition.

The savage, the redskin, the warrior, the fighter, the defender, the killer, the scalper—all are somehow buried deep in the American psyche, the bloody history, Hollywood, the playing of war, the play killing, the violence the acting out. So there’s that tradition.

It is a property thing, after all, the ‘Mericans say they discovered, stole, killed for, made treaties for, then purchased the whole thing! And after ‘skins were made into farmers or alcoholics on reservations, the red warrior is honored for being a worthy opponent to the genocidal maniacs. Actually, that would make a great name for the Washington, DC soccer team: the Genocide! The logo could be a pile of skulls!

So it belongs to them, it’s their property, they killed for it, it’s an honor thing. It’s a hundred years old and that’s as old and traditional as it gets in this young country, which still struggles to understand its own nationhood. So I propose a new set of sports-team names based on terms that the rest of America knows these cities and regions by. They are historically based, so we should honor our country’s history in this manner.

Dallas Assassins, Washington Crackheads, Miami Druglords, New York Hymies, Boston Bombers or Boston Blue Noses, Chicago Gangsters, Kansas City Sausage Stuffers, Salt Lake City All White Saints, Cleveland Caucasians or Cleveland Caucauzoids, Philadelphia Brother Lovers, Pittsburgh Slaggers, Mississippi Lynch Mob, Arizona Cutthroats, San Francisco Flying Faggots, San Diego Wetbacks, San Antonio Banditos, New Orleans Killer Cops, Las Vegas Streetwalkers, Alabama Grand Wizards, Los Angeles Trannies, Seattle Suicides, Connecticut Kikes, Greater Midwest Tweakers, St. Louis Robber Barons, Memphis River Rats, Topeka Aborted Fetuses, Ozark Shine Runners, Buffalo Bootleggers, Atlanta Crackers, Boise Aryans, Albuquerque Meth-heads, Florida Old Farts… It becomes endless as we travel inside the psychic boundaries of America, the Great Melting Pot.

I think the new celebrations, rituals, game songs and supportive fans in their party attire would create great media spectacles! And teach historical truths to the next generations so all these traditions can be carried on. God ‘Less America! (If you think this is rude and disparaging, racist hateful speech, bullying? Well isn’t that the point/counterpoint?)

Breaking News. NFL Fans are now criticizing the "game experience." They want changes and are getting perks like in-stadium red-zone coverage to keep them coming back, to actual games, in stadiums. So in effect, that's saying that the game is best seen on TV and the actual stadium experience is now called into question. So when Indians say they are uncomfortable, embarrassed and humiliated at games, why is it so different than when the NFL fans they won’t bring their families or go to games alone.? They feel unsafe; it’s crowded and dirty and loud, full of expletives and pejoratives. This has also become a tradition, and sometimes traditions need to change. Or as they always tell us, people must adapt.

More breaking news. Those Washington Redskins don’t look like a good team now, the Kansas City Chiefs look like they may make the playoffs, the Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves made the MLB playoffs. Is it karma or time to double down? Well, the curse continues, Indians and Braves out, Redskins next?

Alex Jacobs, Mohawk, is a visual artist and poet living in Santa Fe.

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Anonymous's picture
Great points!
Anonymous's picture
These Native images are iconic. They are powerful. They're potent. That is why they use them. To gain power. It's all about being more powerful than the next team. Using those images to strike fear or intimidation in the other team. Didn't we as Natives do that to our enemies? Put on our war paint and feathers and go into battle to strike fear into our enemies? We sure did. Do you think that testosterone laden athletic teams would use a wimpy symbol? No. They picked powerful symbols. Native Americans. Our skin was and still is red. It's a fact. As for the other things about drinking and disrespect. That is on them. The symbols are ours too. Yes. They are thieved or used to gain power or show prowess. There is truth in that. Why do you think all these Caucasian people are using these symbols or objects? Everybody is looking for power. Caucasians are no different. They recognize the inherent power in our symbols. I have never had one minute of offense over these symbols. Everyone in Washington State cheered the quarterback "Sonny Sixkiller" on the Washington Husky Foot ball team back in the 70s. He was our hero. He was Indian. Nobody thought anything of it about him or his race or his name. In fact we cheered "kill em Sonny" in admiration of his name. Yeah. We were stupid. We "war whooped" it up at those games. We made our Objibwe calls in the stands. Our war woman calls in the stands. Like we always did for our hometown hero. That is cultural. Maybe the offense has to do when Caucasians act like Indians in the stands? We don't want them thieving our calls or gestures? Is it a compliment? Is it an offense? I never got offended. Ever. We were all at the game cheering on our home town team. All of us. Red. Yellow. Black. White. All precious in His sight. We didn't care. Frankly I enjoyed the 70s much better. People are too darn thin skinned these days. Everyone is so offended by everything else. The 60s and 70s were all about tolerance. Loving your neighbor. But now? People are just angry and offended over everything. This is not a cool time. At all.
Anonymous's picture
You know I am sorry that the white man so you call them has left such a bad taste in your soul. And I don't read up on a lot of history, but I have feelings and can feel the pain in your voice when you talk of this. Not all of the fans are trying to disrespect your race and you were here first and the land was stolen from you etc. However do not blame all for your misfortune as a nation on everyone. We are not responsible for what our forefathers did. Yet you keep blaming us for it. Just like those still blaming and pointing the finger for slavery. The way I see it is fans take pride in their teams and the names are sacred to those fans. Ask any of us. Let someone bad mouth them and it's on. So I think you search to deep for blame. Because we love our Names we've picked and they have been disappointing and have brought us joy, But never have I seen them disrespected. As far as drunks, you can't reason with them on either side. So why waste your time or energy. The Indian nation has been given a raw deal and so have the African Americans , The Irish emigrants, The Asian's. In all we have all been Ill treated in one way or another. Making accusations will not make a difference. But Peace Be In Your Heart.
Anonymous's picture
Using Native American names to "honor" them would be like a German sports team calling themselves the "Berlin Kikes" to honor the Jews who died in the holocaust. Because just like they attempted to exterminate an entire culture, so did the United States. By the way, I love Cleveland baseball, but the team should go back to the name "Spiders." Just think of the cool marketing options there.