Never say NEVER about social change

Mark Trahant

The whole movement is not just about the Washington team but about the use of our likeness as Indian people and how that likeness is not really honorific

Mark Trahant

Indian Country Today

Carla Fredericks, Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, is the director of the American Indian Law Clinic at the University of Colorado Law School as well as director of First Peoples Worldwide. She has worked on the the economics of mascots and how Indigenous projects are measured by investors. 

A few of Carla Fredericks comments:

Well, I guess the phrase is NEVER SAY NEVER all in caps. You know, as Indian people, we play the long game and we persevered and got through it and there's still a lot of work to be done, but today is definitely a momentous occasion."

"The investor work has received a lot of attention in the past couple of weeks but it's actually work that's been going on for a couple of decades as well."

"There have been various engagements with companies that have business relationships, particularly to the Washington team that up until recently haven't really had a lot of traction. And what happened in the past couple of weeks has really been,sort of the story of this amazing moment, which is a lot of very rapid movement on lingering serious issues of race in this country. And we were able to just ensure that the Washington team name became part of that discussion."

"I think what's really happened in the last couple of weeks is that people are really beginning to understand how corporate behavior should be looked at holistically, that what people might consider investment issues should be broader to encapsulate investment risk on social issues, as well as investment risk on environment, on governance issues."

"Companies are in kind of a tough spot because they have to weigh the economic impact of their behavior in several different ways. It's sort of like seven dimensional chess. And I think that it weights differently depending on whatever the circumstances are. So FedEx has the naming rights to the field where the Washington team plays. There's, there's a contract, that's a several hundred million dollar contract that attaches to that. When you weigh that against the concerns of Native American groups and social investors, perhaps prior to the tragic death of George Floyd and this moment that we're in that might have been weighted in a particular way. And now that FedEx has been really subject to social pressure because of the moment we're in. I think now it's weighing differently."

"The whole movement for this and the investor community and I think in the Native American community as well is not just about the Washington team but about the use of our likeness as Indian people in professional and scholastic sports and how that likeness is not really honorific as some people may think but really that it has a damaging effect particularly on our youth and then how we think about ourselves. And, there've been incredible studies that have been done on this. 

"I mean, it's so funny that this is happening in the context of football because there are so many great football analogies that can be drawn here and if you're a fan of the game as I am it does feel like fourth quarter, you know, with just seconds left and anything could really happen still at this point, I think we have to take the team at their word that they are rebranding, that they are walking away from the name and from the logo but they haven't said what the new name and logo are going to be. And I think the concern is that it could still be highly problematic."


"I think this is a moment for leadership. You know, I think that we could look backwards and feel angry or upset about how long this took or what the road was to get here but I'm an optimistic person. I think as Indian people, our very survival is based on the fact that we're pretty optimistic and pretty generous. 

"We have to keep on keeping on, on the sports issue. We've been called to service in that regard and we've mentioned Susan White several times and we really carry on that work in her honor. And we also are working to build tools for investors to be able to engage better and more proactively with Indian Country. So in the next several months, we're really working on a model to get renewable energy development into the hands of tribes, alongside social investors."

Mark Trahant hosted today's newscast. Washington editor Jourdan Bennett-Begaye tracks the latest COVOID-19 numbers in Indian Country.

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