67 Percent of Native Americans Say ‘Redskins’ Is Offensive
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.”
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 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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