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WaPo Skins Poll: Surprising, Not Shocking

The Washington Post poll that came out last week showing that nine out of 10 Native Americans surveyed did not find the term Redsk*ns offensive drew outrage from Indians all over the internet, and from tribal leaders and scholars who have been leading the charge for changing the team nickname of the Washington NFL football team.

The poll suggests to me that there is a disconnect between Natives who routinely use the internet, in particular Facebook and Twitter, and those who rarely if ever use the internet. When I woke up last Thursday morning and read the headline from the WaPo (Washington Post) on my computer I was surprised, but not shocked or upset.

I thought a national poll of this nature would be closer to 50/50. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not personally offended by the term Redsk*ns, but I do support those who want to see the name eliminated. I would have answered “yes” to the questions “is the term Redskins offensive and/or disrespectful to Native Americans?” Yes. “Does it bother you?” No. It doesn’t bother me. The second question in the poll is therefore fundamentally flawed.

The reported poll results point out to me that what we see on social media nowadays and things written by journalists (including me) does not reflect how Native people in general necessarily feel about certain issues. Many of us are concerned about a litany of things that have much more priority in our lives.

Rusty Whitworth is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation in western Montana. He was quoted in the WaPo story saying, “Let’s start taking care of our own people and quit worrying about names like Washington Redsk*ins.” From the looks of him, I can’t imagine that guy waking up and the first thing he does is check his Facebook, Twitter or Google account.

I know Natives who live here in Albuquerque who have Redsk*ns season tickets and fly to the D.C. area to attend Redsk*ns home games. They are religious about their favorite NFL team. Some fly to Dallas and Denver whenever they get the chance. But to see someone from the Native community come out publicly in support of the moniker would be sacrilegious. There is a certain political correctness that exists that doesn’t allow Native people to shamelessly show their true allegiance when it comes to the Redsk*ns.

Okay, back to the poll. There were a few things that raised red flags for me. (And why are they referred to as red flags?) The first question asked was “are you a tribal member?” The results showed 44 percent said yes, which left the other 56 percent as self-identifying themselves as Native American. The other red flag is that this phone survey, if I’m reading the information correctly, came after a different phone survey had been conducted.

Then they asked the participants the question about whether or not they identified themselves mainly as Native American. The poll takers then claim that they surveyed Native people from all 50 states. I think they had to be selective to record 504 Natives from all 50 states when the original survey was not even specifically searching for Native Americans. You catch my drift? It doesn’t make sense to me.

The reaction from Native people on the internet didn’t surprise me either. The political correctness of this whole issue was in full swing. Few, if any, pointed out the thing that actually offends me about the NFL continuing to allow the Washington football franchise to use this term. I strongly believe its roots are founded in the bounty hunting of Indians.

But for Natives to immediately swamp the internet with claims that discredit the poll as illegitimate was also kneejerk. It was expected. If only one out of 10 Natives find the term offensive that adds up to over half a million people. Including the non-natives who find the term offensive and you may have 10 million Americans who want the name changed. It’s time for a new poll that is totally unbiased and focused on tribal members only. Let’s also strictly poll folks that grew up in Native communities and with Native relatives and family. That would be interesting.

Here's a one-on-one interview with a Native who might have had his mind changed.

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.