“Mr. Speaker, George Washington himself respected the Native Americans of this country and their culture. Shouldn’t the NFL team that bears his name do the same?”
Respect was what Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY) called for during a three-minute speech on the House floor in Washington, D.C., yesterday. He refrained from uttering the word “Redskins,” while arguing that the Washington NFL team should change its name.
"The name of the Washington football team is derogatory to the Native Americans of this country," Maffei said. "For many Native Americans across the land, the name of the Washington football team is a deeply personal reminder of a legacy of racism and generations of pain."
Maffei also spoke about the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua between George Washington and the six nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, some of which he represents in Congress. George Washington ratified the treaty by having a six-foot-long belt fashioned to signify peace and friendship between their two cultures.
He argued that if Washington and the Haudenosaunee people could work together back then, then Dan Snyder, and the NFL, should work with Native American groups toward an understanding about changing the team’s name.
During the speech, Maffei held a Two Row Wampum Belt given to him by the Onondagas, which he said symbolizes one of the first treaties between the Haudenosaunee and the Dutch in 1613.
He asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if during the 400th anniversary of this groundbreaking treaty, we could right the wrong and change this NFL team’s name?”
He listed his colleagues, Betty McCollum and Tom Cole as allies of the name-change debate, and mentioned President Obama as well.
Maffei backed the Oneida Indian Nation’s “Change the Mascot” campaign and said that the Washington team and other NFL owners should meet with the Oneida Nation.
He asked, “How can we achieve mutual understanding unless they are willing to meet?”
Maffei is from Central New York, home of the Six Nations of the Haudenosaunee, known as the Iroquois Confederacy.
He tweeted about his speech yesterday.