For reasons that non-native American’s can not, will not, choose not, do not, or refuse to understand, why the term "Redskins" is demeaning, I hope to shed some light. One must first try to find the origins or history of the term and history of the people. Most importantly, without ever having been subjected to racism, as a Native, or other "Minority" group, one can not tell me or anyone else what is offensive. If you haven’t lived it, experienced it, or otherwise been subject to racism, you will never truly understand it.
There is some debate as to who first used the term "Redskins". Some say it was first used by a native leader to describe the differences between Natives and the Europeans. I personally believe that this is somewhat true. I believe that this was a mistranslation by the interpreter as most native people called other tribes by name. Native languages did not have words for Europeans, therefore a descriptive word was used in its place. However, in a lot of native languages a single word can have many meanings, dependent on the context, if it masculine, or feminine. And words also change meaning on where the emphasis is placed. I believe the interpreter used the most simplistic translation he/she could make at that time.
History of Native people in the U.S. is pretty much hidden, if not outright censored. It starts with the first settlers bringing smallpox, yellow fever, etc. into a land that the people did not have immune systems for. Some estimates range between 60-100 million natives perished by the time the revolutionary war began. This led to the U.S. Government issuing infected blankets to tribes as part of the treaty obligation in the U.S. Government mandated genocide of the native people. On a side note: When the U.S. Calvary massacred unarmed women, children, and the elderly, it was listed as a "Battle". But when the Native men defeated the U.S. Calvary in battle, it was listed as a Massacre, and is to this very day. One could go on and on about true native history in this land. But that is another time and place. The point being, Native people have been fighting for their very existence for well over 500 years.
A brief summary of Native history:
1830: Removal Act AKA The Trail of Tears
1887: Dawes Act - authorized the President of the United States to survey American Indian tribal land and divide it into allotments for individual Indians. Sell excess land to settlers for U.S. Government profit. Also mandated Blood Quantum’s - Native Americans are the only people in the U.S. who must prove their race by being enrolled in a U.S. Government Recognized Tribe (562 tribes of over 2500 that existed in 1492). Can not lease or sell land that is "Owned" as individual, Bureau of Indian Affairs controls this. Can not leave land to designated heirs, all heirs get a share. I am heir to approximately 1200 acres on two different reservations, I own .034 percent of 1200 acres. When the largest heir owns less than .02 percent, the land goes back to the tribe and we own nothing. Another way for the government to keep natives from gaining any wealth as these land have zero equity.
1906: 25 USC § 302, Indian Reform School—Enacted June 21
… "That the consent of parents, guardians, or next of kin shall not be required to place Indian youth in said school." – This law is still on the books.
I personally was sent to an Indian Boarding School and endured two forms of solitary confinement. The worst of which was when I was locked in the (Level 0) room for 4 days in just my undershorts. There was a mat and pillow with no sheet or pillow case, and a thin wool blanket, this occurred in 1979. More
1924: granted U.S. Citizenship
1978: American Indian Religious Freedom Act - Took an act of congress for Native people to practice religious beliefs. (Bill of Rights… anyone… anyone…)
Native Americans have over 6000 more laws we must live by, not counting treaties, than any other group of people in the U.S. It is called U.S. Code: Title 25 - Indians. So much for all men are created equal.
A small sample outside the U.S. government:
American Holocaust: D. Stannard (Oxford Press, 1992) - "over 100 million killed" "[Christopher] Columbus personally murdered half a million Natives"
"Hitler’s concept of concentration camps as well as the practicality of genocide owed much, so he claimed, to his studies of English and United States history. He admired the camps for Boer prisoners in South Africa and for the Indians in the wild west; and often praised to his inner circle the efficiency of America’s extermination – by starvation and uneven combat – of the red savages who could not be tamed by captivity."
– P. 202, "Adolph Hitler" by John Toland
In the mid-1970s a Choctaw-Tsalagi Indian Health Services doctor was approached by a 26-year-old American Indian woman who desired a "womb transplant." She had been sterilized when she was 20 at the Indian Health Service hospital in Claremont, Oklahoma. It was discovered that 75 percent of the Claremont sterilizations were non-therapeutic, that women American Indians were being prompted to sign sterilization forms they didn’t understand, that they were being told the operations were reversible, and that some women were even being asked to sign sterilization papers while they had yet to come out of birthing sedation.
Common Sense magazine reported that the Indian Health Service "was sterilizing 3,000 Indian women per year, 4 to 6 percent of the child bearing population…Dr. R. T. Ravenholt, [then] director of the federal government’s Office of Population, later confirmed that ‘surgical sterilization has become increasingly important in recent years as one of the advanced methods of fertility management’." Ravenholt’s response to these inquires "told the population Association of America in St. Louis that the critics were ‘a really radical extremist group lashing out at a responsible program so that revolution would occur’. - Source
This is just the tip of the ice burg. Until people actually take the time to learn about other people’s culture and beliefs, without placing judgment, racism will continue. I don’t believe it will ever end, but until people and organization that strive in the spotlight of the public change, it definitely will not.
Washington Redskins - The coach that George Preston Marshall is said to Honor, William Henry "Lone Star" Dietz, who claimed he was part native (in order to avoid the military draft). As a Native American Veteran (USMC), that is offensive. Especially since Native Americans serve in the military at an astronomically higher per capita rate than any other ethnicity in the U.S. John F. Banzhaf III, Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School, cites a newspaper article from 1933 in which Marshall is quoted as saying the name was selected only to save money by not having to change the logo of the Braves.
Protesting of disparaging native mascots begin in earnest in 1960’s (time line). However, it took a backseat to other, more important protests, like being able to practice our religion, and getting the U.S. Government to honor treaties. Contrary to popular belief, most tribes where not conquered, defeated yes, conquered, no. Conquered peoples do not have treaties with the conquerors, defeated people do, there is a difference. We moved are people to reservations in exchange for not having to go to war.
And as far as these polls that say Native Americans support the Redskins name, I have yet to find anyone from reservations that have been polled. I am enrolled in my grandmother’s tribe but grew up with my grandfather’s tribe. Each tribe has over 20,000 enrolled and I have hundreds of relatives and friends on both.
Is it any wonder that non-natives don’t have any clue about how Natives actually feel? We are still here and we will be for some time. We fight each and every day to be seen, heard, and recognized for what we are, human beings. #iamnotyourmascot