Associated Press

67 Percent of Native Americans Say ‘Redskins’ Is Offensive

Rachael Johnson

That now infamous 2004 Associated Press Annenberg survey – quoted ad nauseam by TV pundits, fans, and even NFL representatives – said that a majority of Native Americans believe the name “Redskins” is not offensive.

Well, according to a California professor, they’re all wrong. James Fenelon, Lakota/Dakota from Standing Rock, a sociology professor at California State University, San Bernardino, compiled his own data, and the results show that 67 percent of Native Americans believe that “Redskins” is a racist word.

During a news conference in January, when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that nine out of ten Native Americans “prefer” the name “Redskins,” he was quoting that 2004 survey of 768 people who identified themselves as American Indian.

“Of course it is both disgusting and predictable,” Fenelon told ICTMN about the 90 percent figure that Goodell quoted. “It is a major reason why I agreed to take this [study] on… The dominant society knows on some level that it is bogus to run these uncritical polls, and then reproduce results that don't resonate with real experience.”

RELATED Navajo Nation Officially Joins Fight Against Redskins Mascot

In 1995, as the Cleveland Indians were heading into a World Series against the Atlanta Braves, a similar name change debate was happening with their logo, Chief Wahoo. “This is exactly what Dick Jacobs and the Cleveland Indians were doing [with Chief Wahoo]and also claiming players and coaches were Native, untrue and uncritically accepted,” Fenelon said.  “And, of course, they have to exaggerate their own inflated findings to boot, going from 70 percent to 80 percent, plus to an astounding 90 percent, to salve the racialized mindset and rationalize its existence.”

Fenelon is the Director of Center for Indigenous Peoples Studies at CSU (Courtesy James Fenelon)

Fenelon collected data for a poll about what “real Natives” thought about the baseball team. He went to large pow wows in the Cleveland area, and related events, and polled people individually, making sure that “at a high level of certainty” their tribal identity was legitimate; and that all who claimed Native ancestry were actually American Indian. “American Indians are the hardest to poll,” said Fenelon, who squeezed in an interview on his way to work. “And that’s because a lot of them claim to be Native, but it’s often dubious.”


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Shadowwolf480's picture
Submitted by Shadowwolf480 on
The chief financial officer with the WA team was still quoting that 10 year old bogus and doctored up survey to the Mid-Atlantic Methodist Church leader, whose vast congregation is scheduled to vote on a boycott measure, come June 14th. I'm sure the self-described "Indians" who participated in that 10 year old survey, were actual WA team fans. That survey is as fake as the products made in China. He then put on 3 brothers from the Blackfeet Nation to egregiously speak for all of Indian Country. Lamely, implying that the team name was not offensive. I applaud this professor's study. But deep down, I also know that the numbers are actually higher. There is no doubt that there are a lot of Natives out there (I included) who strongly oppose the WA team name to the fullest degree possible, who are not included in any surveys. The change the mascot movement is just too vast to ignore. The few "Injuns" who sold out, such as the 3 brothers from the Blackfeet Nation, are wholly insignificant.