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Charles Vig, Melanie Benjamin, et al, Twin Cities Pioneer Press

Five years ago, representatives from our state’s 11 sovereign Native American tribal nations were joined by allies and sports fans at the largest rally to date urging the Washington NFL team to change its racist and degrading name. Now in 2019, the team returns to Minnesota to play the Vikings on October 24 at U.S. Bank Stadium. So much has changed in our broader American culture during that time, but this hateful name remains.

As leaders of our state’s tribal nations, we cannot understand why the Washington team is so steadfastly committed to this slur – “r**skins.” Many people mistakenly believe that this name simply refers to the color of our skin. But the term more cruelly refers to the bloody scalp of a murdered Native American, which were collected and traded for money like fur pelts, the value determined by whether the scalp belonged to a Native man, woman or child. It is a hurtful reminder of the genocide of our people. 

Supporters of this team and other degrading Native American mascots argue that these names honor Native Americans. We find no honor in the brazen display of this term on national television and licensed merchandise, or the way in which the team has ignored decades of requests to change it from the very people it claims to honor and respect. 

When this name is celebrated, it is to the detriment of generations of Native American peoples. Studies have shown that exposure to these stereotypical and racist images adversely affects the self-esteem and self-confidence of Native youth, and we’ve seen this firsthand. This is one of the many reasons why the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council has opposed the use of racist mascots and imagery in sports. 

Thousands of schools and professional teams have moved away from these images and the legacy of discrimination that they represent. They’ve built new franchises founded on dignity and respect and made apologies for their past mistakes. 

It is time for Washington to do the same. 

And we’ll make that clear on October 24 as we join state, federal and local officials, the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media, the National Congress of American Indians, our 11 sovereign Minnesota tribes, and many others to rally against the continued use of this slur. This racist term is not welcome here and has no place in sports. 

Please join us before kickoff at The Commons park in downtown Minneapolis for a march and rally to remind the Washington team that there is no honor in racism. It’s time to change the name.

Charles R. Vig is chairman of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and Melanie Benjamin is chief executive of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe.

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This op-ed was also signed by:

Shelley Buck, president of the Prairie Island Indian Community

Cathy Chavers, chairwoman of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa

Beth Drost, chairwoman of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Kevin DuPuis, chairman of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Michael Fairbanks, White Earth Nation chairman

Faron Jackson, Sr., Chairman of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

Kevin Jensvold, chairman of the Upper Sioux Community

Robert L. Larsen, president of the Lower Sioux Indian Community

Darrell G. Seki, Sr., chairman of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians

Note: originally published at Republished with permission of the authors.