The Redskins name debate

With the beginning of fall and Halloween quickly approaching there is one thing also happening that makes people either excited or nauseated and it’s not pumpkin spice. 

It’s sports. 

It’s also that wonderful time of the year when you will hear sports fans and activists alike talk about one thing: mascots and names involving Native Americans. 

I would like to think that most people can recall that one time The Washington Post said 9 of 10 Native Americans did not find the term “redskin” offensive. This is something that has been widely debated by not only sports fans, but activists and Native Americans themselves. 

Owner Daniel Snyder has also taken a stand to the point where he has written emotional letters about how Native Americans face more dire issues than the name of a football team. These condition include the poverty rate on reservations, diabetes, substance abuse, lack of infrastructure, transportation and lack of water resources. At the end of a letter he even announces the start of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. 

In the summer the NFL asked the U.S. Supreme Court to look over their revocation of the Redskins trademark registration. 

Already, I am seeing reporters say Snyder has already said no this season to changing the name. Which is a shame—he didn’t even wait for the Supreme Court to decide on the revocation. 

“Why not,” people ask me, “talk about Blackhawks, the Indians, the Braves, the Chiefs?” 

But they are, and we will…but not in this column. 

In my time here at BGSU, I’ve taken every Native American Studies class. In my second Native American Studies class, I learned that the term “redskin” comes from collecting Native American scalps for bounty. 

A column by Esquire shows a picture of the Phips Proclamation written in 1755 saying, stating, “The State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for very red-skin sent to Purgatory.”

A picture of an excerpt from the 18th century Phips Proclalmation.
A section of the Phips Proclamation which gives the prices for how much every Native American bounty is worth. It lists the prices of both whole bodies and scalps.

An advertisement appearing in Minnesota newspaper, The Daily Republican, prices dead Native Americans at $200, citing that the amount is “more than the dead bodies of all the Indians east of the Red River are worth.

An advertisement from the Minnesota newspaper, The Daily Republican, which advertises the price of Native American scalps to be $200.
An advertisement showing the price of a Native American scalp from a 19th century newspaper

Native Americans were scalped and had their heads sold as if they were pelts

To a lot of Native Americans, the terms is seen as offensive and it is something they do not wish to have as a name for the Washington football team. However, cannot ignore that there indeed may be some Native Americans who are completely okay with the name. With all topics, it is a fact of life that there will always be a divide in opinions. 

Daniel Snyder is right. There are indeed these problems he listed in his letter on Native American reservations. Post World War II Germany was treated better than Native Americans have been. 

A protest has been going on in the Dakotas over an oil pipeline that is being built on Native American land. The pipeline would stretch over four states and could potentially affect the drinking water of 18 million people with just one accident. 

I have yet to see the NFL, nor the Redskins, do anything to either help Native American communities or lend a hand to the protesters who are up against an oil company invading their land, and defacing burial sites and sacred places. 

The Original Americans Foundation has also been inactive since 2015. Their website isn’t even updated or functioning. 

There are definitely other teams who need to step up for Native American communities and the Redskins, and while they have done so in the past, they have not done so to my knowledge in the present.

CORRECTION: The original column cited the advertisement to be an excerpt of the proclamation. This turned out to be incorrect and was changed.
The original version of this column was published in the independent student publication, The BG News, which can be found here.

Advertisements