Associated Press
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder.

Outrage in Indian Country as Redskins Owner Announces Foundation


With a four-page letter released late in the day on Monday, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has taken his stubborn defense of the team's name to a new level.

The early reaction from Indian country: We're not buying it.

The campaign to quell controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins football team has in recent months included photo ops with Navajo code talkers and a highly suspect Native pro-Redskins grassroots campaign. Now Snyder has announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

Snyder's letter begins by affirming that he has no intention of ever changing his team's problematic name, referring to a letter he wrote to fans in the fall: "I wrote then–and believe even more firmly now–that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents."

The Redskins owner then describes his campaign of outreach to American Indian communities, and cites facts about poverty, health, and standard of living in Native communities that everyone in Indian country is all too familiar with.

Snyder's conclusion: Clinging to his team's racial-slur name is a noble gesture, but isn't enough to solve Indian country's problems. Or as he puts it: "It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more."

The letter is rife with self-satisfaction and misdirection, repeatedly emphasizing all the wonderful ways the Redskins, through the Foundation, might help Indian country, with no mention of the elephant in the room: The widespread objection in Indian country to the team's name. For instance, here's another interesting tap dance, bolded and italicized as in the original:

"Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs."

Such willingness to let Indians say what is most beneficial for Indians does not, obviously, extend to his football team's name. 

The announcement has met with harsh criticism in Indian country.

“We’re glad that after a decade of owning the Washington team, Mr. Snyder finally says he is interested in Native American heritage, but this doesn’t change the fact that he needs to stand on the right side of history and change his team’s name,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, said in a statement to ThinkProgress.

Suzan Shown Harjo, who has led the legal charge against the name for decades, shared stronger words with Think Progress: "Native America is impoverished? He just now figured that out? We know what the pressing issues are. We’re the ones who’ve been dealing with them all our lives. What an insult. The whole thing. This is a stunt. To me, it’s a stunt. But we’ll see. Supposedly it’s a change of heart, but it’s not a change of mind. And it’s not a change of name.”

Backlash on Twitter from Natives, many of whom have been united by the #NotYourMascot hashtag, has been forceful.

Frank Waln ‏@FrankWaln "Dan Snyder is scum of the earth"

Lauren Chief Elk ‏@ChiefElk "Countdown until 'Dan Snyder is trying to help you and you guys aren't even grateful!'"

Johnnie Jae ‏@johnniejae "Apparently visiting 26 of 300+ reservations & bribing 400 tribal leaders means we should bow to our new savior Dan Snyder #notyourmascot "

What TRIBE ‏@WhatTRIBE "When redeeming racist brands, hire brand management experts from secret service to create pity press for penance/ not repentance @Redskins "

Dani ‏@xodanix3  "Whats most frustrating about Snyder's strategies is just how petty they are. Its insulting they even take it there."

julia good fox ‏@goodfox "'@Redskins: It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of #Native Americans, we must do more' <--- not The Onion."

Sarah ‏@eyesnhearts "I'm pretty sure I don't need the white savior industrial complex to help me with my reality #NotYourMascot "

Adrienne K. ‏@NativeApprops "What kind of choice is that for communities? Here, have some desperately needed resources. Shhh, just say you don't mind the racial slur."

Aura Bogado ‏@aurabogado "Synder understands #Natives so well that he mentioned Redskins 24 times, and tribal sovereignty 0 times"

Jacqueline Keeler ‏@jfkeeler "Dan Snyder, helping is not dictating. Being a friend means listening not buying silence.  #NotYourMascot "

Snyder's letter is below; the original pdf is available at

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Janine LadyofRedskins Vandenberg
Janine LadyofRe...
Submitted by Janine LadyofRe... on
Thank you Dan Snyder, Washington Redskins personnel, Washington Redskins players, Redskins nation family! I as a full blooded Native American from the Tsimshian Nation want to say Thank you and we are so sorry for the half educated people who have chosen to drag the wonderful name Redskins through the dirt! HAIL TO THE REDSKINS forever!!! Thank you for NOT deleting us from history!!!!!

MichaelGross66's picture
Submitted by MichaelGross66 on
I am a registered Native Chippewa from the Turtle Mountain Tribe in North Dakota. My opinion is the use of the word 'Redskin's' is a racial slur, I am not alone. The US Patent office also agrees, Yes the Government agrees. As you can tell by Janine and Steve's comments down below not everyone agrees. Well you'll never get everyone to agree on anything. As we know the 'N' word is a racial slur, yet would anyone ever think of naming a sports team or school mascot that? I don't think so, Do people still use that word, yes. Can you stop everyone from using that word? NO, it'll never happen. Same holds true for the 'R' word . There is no known agreed upon racial slur for white people, IF there was would it be acceptable to use that as a mascot name? For the Foundation he is planning, I personally think it's a joke. It's like Hitler starting a fund raiser for jewish people. He say the Natives will be in charge, and the foundation will do what the tribal leaders want, EXCEPT the thing we want most, CHANGE THE NAME DAN!!!!

wickedgt23's picture
Submitted by wickedgt23 on
This is really good initiative by the Redskins. It should have been done decades ago, but I'm glad Snyder is putting action to his words. All Natives, regardless if you agree or disagree with name, should be behind this foundation. We should all be submitting ideas. They may not all be fulfilled, but at least we would be a part of helping our own as well. If you bash this move and don't support the mission of this foundation, then you have more issues than just name. I have been a proud Redskins fan for 3 decades and a proud redskin (Navajo); and never want them to change their name. The name has always brought me pride. Seeing John Riggins run over people to score TDs, Doug Williams (the first black QB in a SB) pass for then record in SB XXII, and now RGIII and Alfred Morris leading the team has made me happy to be a Redskins fan. Native supporters of the name are out here, and we will always support our team. HTTR!

Wendel BlackWolf Kurz
Wendel BlackWol...
Submitted by Wendel BlackWol... on
To Janie and SteveF---Wow really if you two believe your own BS, then you must also believe every word the government spits out huh? You two are a politicians wet dream!!!!! And if your gonna be a couple of "White Indians" do it quietly so the rest of the world doesn't have to see or hear you!

aimsoutherncal's picture
Submitted by aimsoutherncal on
TRASH THE DC TEAM MASCOT- NO COMPROMISE WHITE SUPREMACY at work LIVE in the CAPITAL…and using the usual tactics of bribery and money to try to “quiet the Natives down”.. This idea of starting a foundation- is blood money… the mascot issue ferrets out racists and encourages hate crime in communities across the Nation. It is a DOCUMENTED FACT the harm Native mascots impose on Native and Non- Native children…The very existence of the Washington DC Red Skins sports team is one of those building blocks that create huge walls in addressing serious issues for Native people- how could it not be? How does it reflect that the Capital of the United States –WASHINGTON DC supports a team that GLORIFIES the mutilation and murder of the Original People of this Land----basically what they are telling the international community- “WE SCREWED NATIVE PEOPLE AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO- EXCUSE ME WHILE I LAUGH MY WAY TO THE BANK from the sales of this MASCOT MERCHANDISE”…sick sick sick

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
The Washington Redskins were notably the talk back in the 1980s and into 1990s, i.e. Superbowl champions/Superbowl participants. Even further back Geoge Allen era, Coach Joe Gibbs, RFK Stadium, the Hoggs, Joe Thesimann, John Riggins, Doug Willams, etc. Were were the anti-sentiments then? Growing up in the 70s and 80s, not once did we hear of this bandwagon effort to unseat a cause so unworthy to trying to make a living, to build upon jobs, to establish a living viable, working community. The Washington Redskin organization is doing far more than what the current political White House machine has done in its 6 years of politics. NOTE: has anybody successfully recorded and decipihered notable accomplishments to Indian Country from the much celebrated White House Indian Conferences with Indian Nations every November? My hope is this: with as much vigor and 'outrage' against a something, i.e. a name that has existed for recent decades, that he progressive indian types can ask or protest the current US Federal Government and ask what more can the Govt do for indian country. Simply sitting and waiting on empty promises fromt he Govt to Indian country is 6 years old now and will be starting its 7th year.

Dine&#039;Nation57's picture
Submitted by Dine'Nation57 on
I grew up on the Dine' reservation in the 60's. Does anyone else remember those days when on Thanksgiving Day we would all gather around the TV to watch the annual Cowboys versus Redskins game? I must admit, it was quite the spectacle. Can you guess who we rooted for in our house?? Wrong, we were devoted Cowboys fans... It took me about two decades to finally see the underlying racism and deep symbolism of this national travesty played out year after year. Today, I am disgusted by the memory of participating in such a farce. It's not just about what is happening today, but about a sick and blatantly racist history, culture and worldview that crept it's way into my family, then my young Native mind! Oh, and Thanksgiving is a holiday taken from the First Thanksgiving, where the "Indians/Redskins" ate at the white man's table in peace and brotherly love. We eat indigenous foods on that day to honor the gifts of the "Redman"... WHAT? Then, after this thankful feast reinactment, the nation then would gather and cheer on the battle between the Cowboys and the Redskins? You wonder how racism is passed on... how it is insidiously engineered to show young white children they must fight to maintain cultural, economic, spiritual and political control? Now, my Natives, be smart. Who would allow any NFL team to honor the Asian history of extreme hard work building the infrastructure of this nation and their later imprisonment in internment camps, with a team called the YellowSkins? On what holiday should this game be played? Chinese New Year? What teams? YellowSkins versus the Patriots? And who would lay honor at the feet of those who survived slave ships, the sting of the master's whip and ran for freedom in the cover of darkness with the Underground Railroad and, whose ancestor Rosa Parks' defiance of segregation, inspired her people's fight for Civil Rights, with a team called the BlackSkins? Oh and of course, this should be played on MLK Day of course! The Blackskins versus the Texans? Now, slaves versus their masters, that should be another epic American NFL battle!! And what about Chief Zee? The black man who dresses up for the Redskin games with a fake headdress, buckskin outfit and rubber tomahawk? So, it would be okay for me to dress up like Malcolm X or Martin Luther King, and cheer for the Blackskins? "Come'on Blackskins, let's WIN! We have a DREAM, We have a DREAM!!!" And, will we ever see the descendants of the "Founding Fathers", shower their long awaited respect upon the architects of this corporate nation--the US of A, with the team, WhiteSkins!! "Give me a "W", give me an "H", give me an "I"!..." And this should be played on Christmas Day, the day when the white savior was born. Whose story was destined to come to our lands and save us from our evil and sinful ways... The WhiteSkins versus the Browns? Match made in heaven! And, lest I forget, thank you Dan Snyder for being our savior once again. Yes, I was gullible, weak minded and played as a child, but not now. Racism is a worldview, a privileged position where boundaries are crossed and it is made to appear okay, both for those hurting and the hurt. It is up to those stepped upon to say foul, not those doing the stepping. I hope to never see another Cowboys versus Redskins game in my lifetime... Change the name, have respect for yourselves.

illathathrilla's picture
Submitted by illathathrilla on
Who speaks for us? A select few that I can see! So, what do those that are "outraged" think we should do? Deny any help from The Redskins Organization? Be pissed off that historically we were called Redskins and that a name still exists that isn't intended to hold any racial slur at all? Those that are so focused on the name issue are the same that are trying real hard to be Indian or trying to move up in the political world. As a boy, I identified with that Redskins logo, I'm Indian so is the guy on the helmets! Even now, I still do! I don't see or hear the racism of the past, I see football and that same logo that I've identified since I was a boy! I see blacks, whites, mexicans, and yes lots of NATIVES cheering on my team!!! Those that are searching for a place in the Native Community and think that what you are doing is right or what is most needed....your wrong! Alcoholism, Drug Use, Healthcare, Poverty, Suicide, Domestic Violence......shall I continue???? Focus on the real issues here at home!!!! Honestly, this issue with the Redskins is causing more division among us Natives than anything. I seriously hope that the money and energy spent to try to change something that you can't control will stop. Put that money and energy into the things that we can control and that will make a difference amongst our own people that really matter!!!!

Flower's picture
Submitted by Flower on
I agree wholeheartedly with Dine'. Our self-respect and self-worth is far more valuable than the tainted money Dan Snyder could offer especially for the sake of our children. I also grew up in one of those same households and we all believed the lie.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
WHY not use the 'outrage' and verbal assaults to the US Federal Government than on a topic that NEVER enters into the discussions of the every-day, common elders, families, struggling to survive on the Reservation today? I visited my families yesterday, and we re-acquainted, had supper first, talked, and made plans for next visit. Not once, no talk was evered mentioned of "Redskin" or any deragutory events-incidents! Instead we talked of common struggles (typical of America - more obviously though to Indian America) - their health followups, overpriced food items, vehicle - house disrepair, ongoing community vandalism, and of course the upcoming local tribal politics for 'reelection'. I am positive their are plenty of NATIVE, like me, who are much rather concerned with helping direct family SURVIVE than have the luxury or time to be concerned over a irrelevant topic. The real crime is the US Federal Govt system and THOSE "PROMISES" since 2007 that obviously haven't flowed down to the community-level. It is still quite obvious the disrepair, squallar of my parent's community and the dis-regard by local tribal politicians (but up untill now - since local election season is coming up). THe joke amongst the local elders in native tongue, is "you see my 'brother' 'sister' before election when they come and ask you to support them, donate to their election, help in their food stand, then when they get elected - they never come around. But since they want to run for office again - they will be showing up again and asking for my help…..again". In reality a "REDSKIN" to the regular indian today struggling to survive, is from standing in line at the local tribal center from being sunburned, being overcomed with emotion - embarrassed, shame, slight anger - after being told tribal services are closed, limited, empty. That is the real definition to "REDSKIN" today.