South Dakota tribe returning $25,000 donation from Washington NFL team

By Kevin Burbach, Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) – A Native American tribe from South Dakota will return a $25,000 donation from a charitable arm of the NFL’s Washington team, saying the team name is “derogatory and inappropriate.”

The tribal council of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe voted Wednesday to return the check, which was issued last month by the team’s Original Americans Foundation to the tribe’s rodeo association.

“A lot of those in our community are opposed to accepting money from the R*dsk*ns, which to us is a racist organization; the term is derogatory and inappropriate,” said Ryman LeBeau, the tribe’s vice chairman and a councilman. “Their fans make a mockery of Indian culture, and that’s just wrong.”

The foundation was created in March 2014 by team owner Dan Snyder following intensifying calls by Native Americans and other groups for the team to do away with its name. The team has maintained that it is meant to honor Native Americans, though a federal judge in June ordered the team’s trademark registration be cancelled, saying there is ample evidence that the name may be perceived as disparaging. However, that ruling does not preclude the team from using the word.

It wasn’t immediately known how many tribes have received donations from the foundation, but team spokesman Maury Lane said the majority of tribes are happy to accept such help and typically put the money toward improving things like transportation, education and football camps.

“The Original American foundation has been working with more than 50 federally recognized tribes, spending millions of dollars on more than 250 projects on tribal lands,” Lane said. “Our mission remains to improve the quality of life on these lands without interfering with tribal governance.”

The Cheyenne Sioux’s fair and rodeo board had passed a motion to allow Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier to seek money from the foundation but hadn’t brought the check to council until this week, LeBeau said, adding that Frazier has met personally with Snyder and the charitable arm.

Included in the motion voted on this week is language that bans Frazier from “unsanctioned communication” with the team or any group or person associated with it. Messages left at Frazier’s office were not immediately returned.

LeBeau, who says the central South Dakota tribe has areas he feels need improvement, doesn’t think it’s right to accept money from an organization that many feel doesn’t support them.

“It just feels like they want to buy us off and keep us quiet,” he said, noting that he knew of only a few people in the approximately 16,000-member tribe supported accepting the check.

Lane maintained that the vast majority the foundation’s donations are well-received.

“This is definitely an anomaly,” he said.

Earlier this year, the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah ousted a tribal chairwoman who was involved with the Original Americans Foundation for misconduct and ethical violations after accepting gifts of an autographed football and a trip to Washington, D.C., to attend a game in 2014.

The foundation also donated two vans to the tribe, which ex-chairwoman Gari Lafferty has said are used to transport children and elders. Lafferty has disputed the tribe’s allegations.

In South Dakota, LeBeau said the issue is preventing from the tribe from tackling larger issues like drug and alcohol abuse and suicides.

“This is just a (distraction) from working on the bigger solutions that will help our communities with the issues that are really affecting us, he said.”