Suzan Harjo has been at the center of so many changes in our society for a long time.

She has been a reporter. She’s a poet. And a museum curator. The executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. And she’s helping reframe ideas about racism and sports for decades.

In so many ways what happened to the Washington NFL team seemed to happen in an instant, but of course, it did not. And the work of Suzan Harjo testifies to that fact.

Suzan Harjo is Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee.

A few of her comments. 

“You can imagine what the people in the corporate headquarters of FedEx and Nike and PepsiCo and Bank of America and Target and Walmart and everyone else,, thought when they saw people demonstrating in over 700 cities at the same time. And why? Because we all witnessed the same man, George Floyd get murdered on television and it was repulsive and riveting and sad and made you want to do something about anything.”

“After all these decades that we've been decrying the stereotype of the Native person, the stereotype of a woman on the butter box and boycotting Land O'Lakes. All these years and what changed there? Well, I have to think it's that they got a woman CEO. It may not have been her passion, it may not have been her goal, but that's when this occurred that she stopped it and said, we're going back to celebrating the farmer.”

"It took people working, Native people working from the early sixties with Clyde Warrior and others. In other States, he was the one who was doing it in Oklahoma, getting rid of Little Red at the University of Oklahoma.”

“It took people of color, lots of students of color across the University of Oklahoma campus women, the women's groups, the women committees, women's commissions. It took faculty. It took, of course the students and it took the administration and it took the National Indian Youth Council having a demonstration, a sit in and the chancellor's office out in the hallway. And no one could go to work in that office. And that was the tipping point where the chancellor said, okay, it'll be retired. And that was 1970. And here we are just a mere half century later.”

“They always are difficult because people say, ‘Braves, what's wrong with that? Warriors, what's wrong? Well, it's the dumb way your fans behave for one, it's all the Tomahawk chopping, it's the war painting, the woo, woo, wooing, the fake dyed turkey feathers and chicken feather headdresses, the so-called Indian clothes, the so-called Indian dances. It's all of that. And it's putting up people you say, you revered, you say, you honor you're exposing them to mockery.”

“So people would say, now we're going to have to change the name of our schools or our parks. No, there's honor naming a park that, there's honor in naming your school, but it would be like having a park that was the African Americans. And then having Dr. Martin Luther King jr. High school, and then having the N word as the football team, as the basketball team or having the S word, I even hate to say, but people don't know what that means. It's the word squaw, having that as the name of the women's teams, these are not honorifics. They're brutal insults.”

What's next? 

"How about financing some statues of Native peoples? Some sculptures of Native people? How about employing some of our artists who can make some of these beautiful tributes that don't have to even be of people they can be of the spirit of the world.”

Mark Trahant anchored today's show. Carina Dominguez reported the COVID-19 data

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