The NFL kicks off their first full slate of games on Sunday and the Washington R**skins will host their season opener against the Miami Dolphins. This will also kick off further protests against the team’s nickname by those who object to the name and feel the term R**skins is derogatory and should be changed.
Let me address why I believe the name should be changed. The Organization of American Historians, the largest academic membership association devoted to the study of American history, issued a statement which read, “The (OAH) hereby adds its voice to the growing demands by Native American organizations…to change the name and logo of the Washington R**skins.”
OAH, in its release, cited the following quote from the Winona Daily Republic, a newspaper based in Minnesota, on September 24, 1863, which reads: “The state reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.” There’s nothing racist about hunting down people different than you (including women and children) for a bounty, right?
OAH also quoted Nazi Germany’s Adolph Hitler about his use of the term R**skins during his invasion of Russia, “There’s only one duty: to Germanize this country (Russia) by the immigration of Germans, and to look upon the (Russian) natives as R**skins.”
Okay, let’s look at some of the arguments that R**skins supporters offer up when they try to insist that the nickname is not insulting or racist, and that Native Americans who find the term insulting and opponents of the name are being too overly-sensitive and that objecting to the name is just part of American society’s new, absurd sense of political correctness:
First of all, the Washington NFL team has always used this name, this is our tradition. My response is “no, that’s incorrect.” The franchise started off with the nickname Braves. If you want to talk about tradition and legacy, go back to Braves.
Or, you could easily change your name to “Pigskins” which I’ve been advocating for quite some time because of Washington fans’ infatuation with your famous offensive line that blocked for John Riggins nicknamed “the Hogs.”
Even better, let’s rename the team “Rednecks.” Before the game you could have a guy looking like Larry the Cable Guy drive out to the 50-yard line at FedEx field, get out of his four-wheel drive pickup, put in a big wad of chaw in his jaw, chew on it as the fans go wild and then take a big ol’ spit of tobacco juice as the band plays and fans sing in unison, “Hail to the Rednecks.” That would be cool don’t you think?
How about the argument that Native Americans should be more concerned about other problems within our communities like poverty, alcoholism and other health issues like the high rate of diabetes. My simple response is, “We are, you idiot.” Next question.
Why did Native people just now start to complain about this issue when they’ve had a chance to raise the issue since the 1930’s? The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) filed a resolution in 1968 protesting the name, without much fanfare and without much public response or outcry. Next.
We call the team R**skins to honor our Native Americans because of their bravery, their nobility and their cultural pride. This is an honor, not an insult. Why are you Natives protesting this name, it’s nothing but an honor to your heritage?
How about if there was a professional team called the Big Bucks, but instead of a deer with a giant antler rack as the logo the team used the profile of an African slave and responded to protests by saying, “We’re honoring African Americans because of their ancestor’s strength, their endurance and their ability to withstand pain.”
Let me explain my deeper point of view on this issue: I do not have a “no tolerance” position when it comes to Native images and symbols being used as sports mascots on the professional, collegiate or high school levels. I have no problem when it comes to names like Chiefs, Braves, Warriors, or even Indians. However, I do believe that Savages, the Tomahawk Chop, and Chief Wahoo have to go.
When it comes to a child’s self-esteem, I believe it’s up to the parents, the home environment, and the extended family to ensure that a child sees herself or himself as worthy. If those things are not in order then, and only then, do I believe a Native child’s self-esteem can be negatively affected by Indian sports mascots.
Here’s my last retort, instead of getting upset with Native Americans and others who want the R**skins name changed, Washington fans should be angry about the fact your team has only made four postseason appearances and had five winning seasons since 1992.
Harlan McKosato is a citizen of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma. He is the Director of NDN Productions, an independent media production company based in Albuquerque.