The Navajo Nation’s traditional medicine men have taken a stand against the cruel and racist name of the Washington, D.C.’s football team.
The Diné Medicine Men’s Association (DMMA) passed a resolution urging President Barack Obama and lawmakers to do whatever it takes to change the Washington Redskins name. The resolution also appealed to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly to support the banning of the racist name through the Nation’s legislative process.
The association is “a council forum of Indigenous men and women created to protect and preserve the traditional practices of the Diné Nation,” according to the group’s website.
The resolution adopted at a meeting at the Chinle Indian Health Service Center, in Chinle, Arizona, on November 17, 2013 by a vote of 10-1 with one abstention and signed by DMMA President Henry Barber, who could not be reached for comment immediately. Indian Country Today Media Network received a copy of the resolution on March 13.
The medicine men’s resolution surfaced in a two-week period that saw three major Redskins-related events at Navajo. On February 28, the Navajo Code Talkers Association adopted a controversial resolution to endorse the use of the racist team name by a 7-0 vote that did not include the consent of all 40 members, many of whom said they were not notified of the meeting.
That endorsement prompted Navajo Council member Joshua Lavar Butler to introduce a proposed bill in the Navajo Nation legislature to oppose the Redskins football team name and authorize Navajo President Ben Shelly and other officials to speak out against it and other racist sports names on behalf of the Navajo people.
Simultaneously, the Navajo Human Rights Commission passed a supporting resolution recommending that the Navajo Nation Council oppose the use of "disparaging" references to Native people in professional sports franchises and urging the Navajo government to use the United Nations Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) when addressing the rights of Navajo people.
In an opening “whereas” clause leading up to the resolution statements, the DMMA explain the moral imperative that is driving them to oppose the offensive name.
“Diné traditional medicine-people always have the commitment to teach, preserve and protect the welfare of the Diné people as well as the welfare of the Diné Nation through providing exceptional protocol of the traditional knowledge of the distinctive oral philosophy of [the] indigenous way of life on the basis of the Diné Ancient Oral Sacred Philosophy of the Spiritual Belief Foundation. Hence, it has always been the moral principle that guided the ceremonial sacred songs and prayers interwoven with intellectual and oral proceeding of planning and teaching with dignity and integrity which is still the effectual foundation of [the] Diné way since time immemorial,” the document says.
The resolution notes that the opposition to the racist name “in efforts to eliminate racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation from American sports” was brought to the association’s attention years ago. It cites various litigation that has been launched to ban the name, including the famous Harjo v. Pro Football case that went on for years. The case ended when the U.S. Supreme denied petition to review a lower court ruling that allowed the team to continue using the name based on legal procedures rather than whether the name disparaged Native Americans. The DMMA resolution also mentions Blackhorse et al v Pro Football, which is ongoing, and H.R. 1278, the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013 which in pending in Congress.
The resolution references the “highly respectable documents of the United Nations Indigenous Rights – the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – and Obama’s statement that the U.S. government recognizes “its history with the Indigenous Nations is long and troubled living a legacy of injustice that has yet to set forth meaningful and faithful strategies that would help Indigenous Nations build enjoyable future[s] choosing through treaties, court decisions, federal and state legislations and the [C]onstitution [which have] sacred pacts with us that all must honor toward [an] enjoyable foundation for security, prosperity and fulfillment of life way[s].”
Finally, the resolution urges the U.S. President, Congress and the Senate to do whatever is necessary “to acknowledge this here psychological and physical disrupting issue with effectual deliberation to forever eliminate the racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation intertwined in relative Mascots in the National Professional Sports.” And it urges Shelly to do whatever is necessary to present the issue to the legislature and the Navajo offices “to be effectively supported and processed through every avenue.”