Patawomeck Tribe: Snyder Could Rename the Redskins After Us

Not that they find the Redskins name offensive.

By Mark Sullivan, The American Spectator

Hail to the Potomacs? If the owner of the Redskins wants to put the controversy over his team name to rest while keeping a Native American theme, he’ll likely have one local tribe’s blessing.

“I was just telling my wife the other day, ‘Why don’t we write to Dan Snyder and suggest changing the name to the Washington Potomacs?” said John Lightner, chief of the Patawomeck tribe of Virginia.

The Patawomecks (or Potomacs), native people of the region, gave their name to the river that flows through Washington, D.C. In the 1600s they belonged to the tribal confederation headed by the great chief Powhatan, from whose war club daughter Pocahontas, legend has it, saved John Smith. (Pocahontas’s mother was a Patawomeck.) Today the tribe counts some 1,500 members, most in Stafford County, Va.

If — and that’s if — the Redskins wanted to style themselves the Potomacs, after the local tribe and the great waterway that shares their name, the tribe likely would endorse the move, Lightner, said.

It has a certain ring to it. It would evoke a sense of place as the name of the river as well as the tribe native to the region. The team’s colors wouldn’t have to change. Nor, for that matter, would the logo.

And this strategy, adopting the name of a local tribe with that tribe’s blessing, is what has saved the Florida State University Seminoles, the University of Utah Utes, and the Central Michigan University Chippewas from charges of racism. The local Stafford High School Indians drew criticism for their mascot, but the tribe wrote to express support for the name, and even helped redesign the logo from a Plains Indian in headdress to an Eastern Woodland Indian reflective of local tribes.

Not that Patawomecks are necessarily offended by the Redskins name, mind you — despite what critics in the media, Congress, and the U.S. Patent Office say.

“I do not find the title of the Washington Redskins offensive in any way,” said William L. Deyo, Patawomeck tribal historian. “I cannot speak for the whole tribe, but I can honestly say that I have never heard of anyone in the tribe having a problem with the name of Redskins used by the team.”

Chief Lightner agreed, in much the same terms. “We’ve got to the point where political correctness has gotten to be ridiculous — everything is offensive to somebody,” he said. “I would venture to say it would be shocking to see how many Native Americans are not opposed to the Redskins’ name.”

Bonny Newton, Patawomeck tribal secretary, recalled the joy taken in the team by her late mother-in-law, Polly Sullivan Newton, who passed away this spring at age 93. “She was the most loyal of all Redskin fans,” Newton said. “She watched every game. I really enjoyed watching Miss Polly watch the Redskins. From her recliner she told the team how to play, what to play, and who to play the entire three-plus hours every Sunday. She knew all the team members, the coach, and this little woman had the rules of the game down pat.”

Activists pressing the name-change campaign condemn Indian team names and mascots as an appropriation and mockery of native culture. The Redskins, for their part, staunchly defend their 80-year-old name as an expression of honor for Native American pride, strength and bravery.

“I would prefer to keep the name of the team as the Washington Redskins, as it is a longtime name of pride for area people,” said Deyo, the Patawomeck historian. But if the team were to switch to the name of his tribe, he said, “I would find the name of Washington Potomacs an honor.”

7 Things That Convinced The U.S. Patent Office To Cancel The Redskins Trademark

By Judd Legum

June 18, 2014 Think


The landmark decision by the U.S. Patent Office, first reported by ThinkProgress, canceled the trademark “Redskins” for Washington’s NFL franchise. Ultimately, the decision hinged on whether the term Redskins “disparages Native American persons.” The law prohibits trademarks on disparaging terms. So the Native Americans challenging the trademark needed to convince the office: 1. The term was still referring to Native Americans, and 2. It was disparaging toward Native Americans. Here are seven things that persuaded the Patent Office:

1. This picture of cheerleaders


From the decision: “The Redskinettes also had appeared wearing costumes suggestive of Native Americans, as shown in the 1962 photograph of them reproduced below, which contained the title ‘Dancing Indians’ and the caption ‘Here are the Redskinettes all decked out in their Indian garb and carrying Burgundy and Gold pom-poms.’”

2. This picture of the marching band


From the decision: “The Washington Redskins marching band had worn Native American headdresses as part of its uniforms between the 1960s and the 1990s, as shown in the image below from the 1980s.”

3. This press guide



From the decision: “Between 1967 and 1979, the annual Washington Redskin press guides, shown below, displayed American Indian imagery on the cover page.”

4. Its similarity to other racial slurs

The decision cited an excerpt from the 1990 book “Unkind Words: Ethnic Labeling from Redskin to WASP”:

Nearly half of all interracial slurs …refer to real or imagined physical differences. … Most references to physical differences are to skin color, which affirms what we have always known about the significance of color in human relations. Asian groups were called yellow this and that and Native Americans were called redskins, red men, and red devils.

5. The dictionary definition of Redskins

We further note the earliest restrictive usage label in dictionary definitions in Mr. Barnhart’s report dates back to 1966 from the Random House Unabridged First Edition indicating REDSKIN is “Often Offensive.” From 1986 on, all of the entries presented by Mr. Barnhart include restrictive usage labels ranging from
“not the preferred term” to “often disparaging and offensive.”

6. The opposition by the National Congress of American Indians

The decision cites a 1992 resolution from the organization:

[T]he term REDSKINS is not and has never been one of honor or respect, but instead, it has always been and continues to be a pejorative, derogatory, denigrating, offensive, scandalous, contemptuous, disreputable,
disparaging and racist designation for Native American’s

7. Letters of protest from Native Americans

The Patent Office also considered letters protesting the name from individual Native Americans. One sample:

Since you continue not to believe that the term “Redskins” is not [sic] offensive to anyone, let me make this clear: The name “Redskins” is very offensive to me and shows little human interest or taste…If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.) Since you would probably find this as distasteful as 300,000 Indians do, I would suggest a change in name. In sticking to your ethnic theme, I would suggest the Washington Niggers as a start. … This would start a fantastic trend in the league. We would soon be blessed with the San Fransisco [sic] Chinks, New York Jews, Dallas Wetbacks, Houston Greasers, and the Green Bay Crackers. Great, huh? Mr. Williams, these would be very offensive to many people, just as Redskins is offensive to myself and others. You can take a stand that would show you and the team as true believers in civil rights, or you can continue to carry a name that keeps alive a threatening stereotype to Indian people. People, Mr. Williams. We don’t want the Redskins!

Yocha Dehe Tribe to Air TV Ad Against R-dskins Name in Seven Major Markets During NBA Championship Game


Source: Oneida Nation Homelands (NY) (PRWEB) June 10, 2014

During halftime of tonight’s NBA Championship game, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is airing a segment from the powerful TV ad called “Proud to Be,” which was produced by the National Congress of American Indians. The ad celebrates Native American culture and underscores their opposition to the use of the dictionary-defined R-word slur.

At halftime of tonight’s Game 3 of the NBA Championship, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation will air in seven major T.V. markets a 60-second version of the National Congress of American Indians’ Proud To Be ad, which celebrates Native American culture and opposes the racist name of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team. This is the first time the ad has aired on television, and it is being run in order to educate the general public about Native American opposition to the R-word. The ad is airing in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, Sacramento, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. after airing in Miami during halftime of Game 2 on Sunday night.*

The advertisement highlights the defining and distinguished characteristics, names and legacies of many Native American tribes throughout the United States. But as the video clearly states, there is one denigrating term which Native peoples never use to describe themselves: R*dskin.

As Chairman Marshall McKay of Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation underscored in a message posted to YouTube: “The R-word is as derogatory a slur as the N-word. When this name first came to be, it was a vehicle for people to bring the victims of violence into an office so they could collect a bounty. I think the Change the Mascot campaign will shed some well-deserved light on the trauma and the disadvantaged people on reservations and throughout the country that are Native American that really haven’t had this opportunity to talk about the pain and the anguish that this kind of racism puts us through.”

James Kinter, Tribal Secretary of Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation also stated in the video: “The Change the Mascot movement is larger than Yocha Dehe or any one tribe. It’s about all tribal people and non-tribal people raising their voices in protest.”

In a joint statement, NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata and Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said: “We applaud the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation for having the vision and commitment to ensure that the American public receives the message loud and clear that Native Americans strongly oppose the use of this disparaging slur. Contrary to the team’s absurd claims, this dictionary-defined racial epithet does not honor our heritage. The Change the Mascot campaign continues to gather strength every time that people are educated about the origin of the R-word and its damaging impact on Native peoples. By airing this ad during the NBA Championships, the message will be brought into the living rooms of millions of American all across the country.”

The moral and civil rights issue of the team’s unapologetic use of a dictionary-defined slur has come to the forefront of American consciousness more than ever in recent weeks. Half of the U.S. Senate recently signed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell urging a change for the D.C. team’s mascot. Shortly thereafter, 77 leading Native American, civil rights and religious organizations representing millions of Americans wrote to every player in the league asking them to stand up against the team’s use of a racial epithet as a mascot.

*Anti-Redskins ad to air during NBA Finals, 6.10.14,

Snyder Tells ‘Redskins’ Critics ‘We’re Not an Issue’

Associated Press
Associated Press


Indian Country Today Media Network


Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington’s NFL team, made brief remarks to  an Associated Press reporter on Tuesday arguing that it’s time for people to “focus on reality” concerning Native American issues instead of criticizing the team’s nickname.

“We understand the issues out there, and we’re not an issue,” Snyder said. “The real issues are real-life issues, real-life needs, and I think it’s time that people focus on reality.”

Snyder’s remarks came after his football team donated copy00,000 to a high school athletic field in a Virginia suburb of D.C. The donation was based on a letter he wrote last month to announce his Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. “I wrote a letter to the fans and it speaks for itself,” Snyder told reporters. “It tells you we did our homework, unlike a lot of people, and we understand the issues out there.”

RELATED Snyder Wins: How ‘CancelColbert’ Drowned Out the Native Voice

But many say that Snyder needs a serious dose of reality himself. In a statement, the National Congress of American Indians said, “Dan Snyder lives in a world where he can get his way throwing his money around. The reality is that he is stubbornly defending the use of a slur.”

“Here’s a reality check: The longer [Snyder] insists on slurring Native Americans, the more damage he will keep doing to Native American communities,” Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation representative, said in a statement.

Snyder has insisted that he will never change the team’s’ name, calling it a “badge of honor,” and he did not respond to reporters’ questions that his new foundation is a way of throwing money around to silence his critics. Instead, he asserted that the foundation is on the right track. “I think it tells you that we did our homework — unlike a lot of people,” he said.

But the foundation is receiving a failing grade from many leaders in the Native community, including Notah Begay III a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. Begay, who spoke to USA TODAY Sports before Snyder made his comments, said that the foundation was “a gimmick” and that Snyder was trying to “offset some of the public disdain for the name of his football team. The Washington football team’s front office has tried to make the issue about them and it’s really not about them. It’s about, unfortunately, the NFL and its owners and its corporate partners condoning use of that word.

RELATED NIGA’s Stevens on Navajo President, ‘Slams,’ Respect and Redskins

“I don’t think if a similar racially offensive word was used for the Hispanic, African American or Jewish communities that it would be tolerated,” Begay told USA Today. “But because the American Indian people historically have not had much political leverage, or because we don’t represent a great amount of buying power from a retail standpoint, we don’t get the same level of treatment that everyone else in this country gets.”



Washington Redskins foundation loses another event sponsor


Erik Brady, USA TODAY Sports  April 13, 2014

Courtesy NB3 FoundationNotah Begay III
Courtesy NB3 Foundation
Notah Begay III

The Notah Begay III Foundation pulled its support from this weekend’s Arizona golf tournament to benefit scholarships for Native American students when it learned the title sponsor was the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

“I find it underhanded and despicable that the Washington football team would co-opt this event,” Crystal Echo Hawk, NB3 foundation executive director, told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday. “As soon as we found out about their involvement we withdrew our support.”

Begay, a four-time PGA Tour winner and an analyst with the Golf Channel, is Navajo, Isleta Pueblo and San Felipe Pueblo. He is a longtime critic of the Washington team name, which he called “a very clear example of institutionalized degradation” on ESPN last year.

MORE: Nonprofit National Indian Gaming Association pulls support

Echo Hawk, who is Pawnee, said the NB3 Foundation was asked in February to donate silent auction items for a golf tournament to be held in Chandler, Ariz., this month; the foundation donated golf apparel.

When she found out Friday that Saturday’s event was sponsored by the NFL team’s foundation, she called the radio station that asked for the donation. Echo Hawk spoke to Tony Little, general manager of Arizona radio station KTNN, and demanded that NB3’s name be removed from the event officially called the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF) 1st Annual KTNN Celebrity Golf Tournament.

“The NB3 Foundation does not support the Redskins or its organization OAF,” NB3 said in a statement. “We are adamantly opposed to the team’s continued use of this derogatory name.”

Echo Hawk said she believed OAF came in as title sponsor very recently. She said she asked Little how much money the football team’s foundation paid for that but that he couldn’t talk about it.

The Washington football team did not immediately return a message asking for comment. KTNN’s Little also did not immediately return a message asking for comment.

The National Indian Gaming Association, a nonprofit that includes 184 Indian nations as members, pulled its sponsorship Friday after learning of the involvement of the football team’s foundation, as reported by USA TODAY Sports that day.

Ernest Stevens, chairman of the gaming association, said his organization finds the team name offensive and he criticized team owner Daniel Snyder for starting the foundation.

“It’s a blatant attempt to try to buy out the issue,” Stevens said.

Contributing: Brent Schrotenboer

Demonstrators to target Chief Wahoo at Cleveland Indians home opener

By Mark Naymilk, Northeast Ohio Media Group

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Native Americans and others who believe the Cleveland Indians’ mascot, Chief Wahoo, is a demeaning caricature plan to demonstrate outside Progressive Field on Friday during the baseball team’s home opener.

Organizers behind the demonstration have tried to rally people against Wahoo on opening day for more than 20 years, though team owners and baseball fans have generally ignored them. In some years, only a handful of demonstrators have stood with signs against Wahoo.

Organizers hope to find greater support this year because of the renewed attention Wahoo has received in the growing national debate over sports mascots and names sparked by the NFL’s Washington Redskins’ controversy.

The Plain Dealer editorial board recently called on the Cleveland Indians’ owners to drop the smiling, big-toothed, big-nosed cartoon Indian, which has been used for more than 60 years.

Ferne Clements, who has helped organize the demonstration for 21 years, says she can’t predict whether or not support for the protest will grow this year.

“But the message hasn’t changed,” said Clements, who works with the Native American advocacy group, The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance. “We can’t settle for anything less than a name and logo change. The logo is racist and the name does not honor Native Americans.”

Team owners, who have largely remained silent in the debate, have said the team has no plans to dump Wahoo, which remains popular with fans.

As they do each year, the demonstrators plan to march at 12:30 p.m. from West 25th Street and Detroit Avenue to Progressive Filed, where they will stay until about 3 p.m.

Other Native American organizations are also participating in opening-day demonstrations against Wahoo, according to Facebook postings and email messages.

Ferne, who is not Native American, said she and others are already looking ahead to 2015, which marks the 100th Anniversary of the team name.

Loss of Trademark Would Be Final Straw for Washington Redskins’ Name


By Brad Gagnon , NFC East Lead Writer

Mar 21, 2014 Bleacher Report

Those who defend the Washington Redskins‘ right to be called the Washington Redskins despite the fact the name is considered by many—including, um, dictionaries—to be disparaging, offensive and flat-out racist, do so because, as my 10-year-old nephew likes to say, it’s a free country, and Dan Snyder owns the team.

They’re right. Snyder paid $800 million for the franchise and its stadium in 1999 and thus has the right to keep the name in place, as he has said he’ll do, according to

The problem is that it seems many supporters of the name falsely believe that Snyder is standing firm based solely on some sort of emotional allegiance to it, when really this is about dollars and cents.

If the name starts costing Snyder money, I can assure you that sentimentality will go out the window.

And if the the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revokes the league’s federal trademark protection on the name “Redskins,” Snyder, his team and the entire league will lose money.

The good news for those who are pro-Redskins is that while that office has indeed been reviewing a case regarding the NFL‘s use of the Washington Redskins’ trademark, it has been doing so for about eight years.

And while a bill was recently introduced in the United States House of Representatives to amend the Trademark Act of 1946 to void any trademark registrations that disparage Native Americans, that has also stalled.

But the bad news for those who are pro-racist nickname is that every new Redskins-related product application made to the Patent and Trademark Office of late has been swatted away in Dikembe Mutombo fashion.

From The Associated Press (via

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected another product with “Redskin” in the name, the latest sign that it might rule against the Washington Redskins in an ongoing trademark case.

The agency said Monday that “Washington Redskin Potatoes” would be considered disparaging because the product doesn’t contain redskin potatoes and therefore would be associated with the football team.

The ruling then stated that current evidence reflects that “a substantial composite of Native American Indians find the current use of ‘Redskins’ in conjunction with football disparaging.”

The agency issued a similar ruling in January, rejecting “Redskins Hog Rinds.””

As Patrick Hruby from Sports On Earth establishes, the cost of changing the name is tantamount to peanuts. We’re talking about one, maybe two Adam Archuletas (sorry for adding salt to the wound, ‘Skins fans).

ESPN and ABC News sports business correspondent Darren Rovell told Keith Olbermann last year that changing names would be a wash in terms of profits/losses, while Olbermann himself believes Snyder would actually make money doing so.

Regardless, if trademark protection is lost and everyone else on the planet gains the right to manufacture and sell products that contain the team’s name and logo without owing the league a dime, Snyder’s hand will be forced.

And that’ll be a good thing, because based on polls as well as the multitude of lawsuits launched in this regard from dozens of Native organizations, it’s safe to conclude that thousands of Americans are personally offended by the name.

Changing it won’t hurt a soul. So even if that change takes place due to reasons that have nothing to do with compassion, a change is a change.

Oneida Indian Nation Responds to Attempts by Washington’s NFL Team to Discredit its Leadership over Opposition to the R-Word


Press Release: Newswire

The Oneida Indian Nation responded today to a report suggesting that Washington’s NFL team and its supporters have attempted to discredit opponents of their offensive mascot only to be told by other Native American leaders that the name should change. Ray Halbritter, Oneida Indian Nation Representative and the leader of the Change the Mascot movement, has come under personal attack for publicly urging the team to drop a name which is a dictionary-defined racial slur.

“In his desire to defend a name given to his team by an avowed segregationist, Dan Snyder can continue to try to attack me personally, but his strategy will not work because this is far bigger and more important than any one person or group,” Halbritter said. “This is an issue that underscores what it means to treat people with respect and to stop causing them pain rather than continuing to insult them with a racist epithet. This is a serious moral, human rights and civil rights issue – and the team’s behavior continues to have serious negative consequences for Native Americans,” Halbritter added.

Sid Hill, the spiritual leader of the Six Nations, recently received a call from a representative of the Washington team which “felt like they were looking for something, that they wanted me to discredit Ray, and I wasn’t going to go there.” Hill said: “The backlash Ray’s received is kind of scary…it’s like they’re trying to discredit the witness.”*

In an interview with a journalist from The Syracuse Post-Standard, Hill underscored his view that the R–word does not honor Native Americans, as the team has claimed. The term, he said, is a taunt and an insult that if directed toward a Native American on their territory would be seen by the target of the slur as an attempt to inflict hurt.*

“It is hardly surprising that the team marketing a racial slur against Native Americans is evidently working to further denigrate Native Americans with personal attacks,” said Oneida Indian Nation Vice President for Communications Joel Barkin. “For all their rhetoric about respect, the team officials’ ugly tactics prove that they lack real respect for Native Americans.”

*At Onondaga, spiritual leader of the Six Nations agrees: Time for Washington to retire ‘Redskins’, 3/16/14,

Read the full story at

Whitewashing Redskins Tour Gets Navajo Code Talkers Assoc. Endorsement



Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today Media Network


Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, has been trying to sway public opinion to support his football team’s racist name for years now. He’s dangled money in front of needy schools in and around Pine Ridge. He tried—unsuccessfully—to get Haudenosaunee leaders to say disparaging things about Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter, who launched the Nation’s campaign to change the offensive name. He got Jennifer Farley, former high level White House employee during the George W. Bush administration, who was on the receiving end of gifts from disgraced former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, to facilitate a meeting with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and other Indian leaders—who have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements about what’s been said and done at the meetings. He’s waved tempting 50-yard-line D.C. game tickets and Super Bowl tickets under the noses of lobbyists and leaders, and presented a poorly orchestrated series of online endorsements by fans who are supposedly Native (mostly claiming Cherokee heritage) in an effort to prove the team’s ugly name is not offensive to Indians.

RELATED: Former Abramoff Associate Arranges Daniel Snyder Meeting With Poarch Band

RELATED: Redskins Run the Wrong Play, Again, With ‘Community Voices’ Campaign

And now, in a sad turn of events, he’s managed to snare the endorsement of seven World War II veterans. After months of courting support in Indian country, Snyder finally chalked up a big success: Seven octogenarian Navajo Code Talkers have endorsed the Redskins name and mascot. But judging from the reaction in Indian country, it could be his greatest misstep yet in this sordid campaign.

The endorsement was approved at a meeting of the Navajo Code Talkers Association (NCTA) in Window Rock, Arizona on February 28 – and was met with outrage from the descendants of code talkers actively involved in the association and devoted to honoring the legacy of their fathers and grandfathers. Much of their ire is directed at Association Chairman Peter MacDonald, who they allege has “hijacked” the NCTA and manipulated the code talkers to endorse the name for his own benefit.

In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network, MacDonald vigorously denied having any financial involvement with the Redskins team. “There’s been all kinds of rumors and innuendos and theories going around about what our relationship with the Washington Redskins is all about. We wanted to set the record straight. There have been calls that Redskins paid us money… this is all totally wrong. Let me say this: The Redskins’ invitation and visit by Navajo Code Talkers was totally, totally funded by Redskins… to honor the Navajo Code Talkers. It was completely initiated by the Redskins as part of their annual tribute to all armed forces.

“The Navajo Code Talkers weren’t paid one cent to be there, nor were there any promises made about donations… ”

Reports of the NCTA endorsement showed up on Facebook late in the afternoon of February 28, and the news spread quickly. Here are a few typical posts. (Both the Facebook link and people’s names have not been used in order to protect their privacy.)

“People are crying. I almost threw up when I read it.”

“Sad day… so much for honor.”

“Rather give more attention to the medicine man association… code talkers have become nationalist puppets and fall for anything.”

Several Navajo descendants and other Navajo citizens expressed suspicion about MacDonald and his motives. Their common theme was, “He divided the Nation.” A former Navajo Nation president, MacDonald was removed from office by the Navajo Tribal Council in 1989 under suspicion of accepting kickbacks from contractors and corporations. The chaos that followed led, a few months later, to a riot in Window Rock in which two MacDonald supporters were shot to death and tribal police officers were injured. “It was an event that would forever change life for many people on the Navajo Nation,” the Navajo Times reported.

MacDonald was tried and sent to federal prison in 1992 for 107 violations of U.S. law, including charges of fraud, extortion, riot, bribery, and corruption. He served eight years of a 14-year sentence and was released in January 2001, when his sentence was commuted by then-President Bill Clinton on his last day in office.

MacDonald was voted president of the NCTA in January 2012.


In November, Navajo Nation Councilman Joshua Lavar Butler condemned what he called team officials’ “antics to use our beloved and cherished Navajo Heroes as pawns in their Public Relations battle to perpetuate this indignity and ignorance.”

Butler has drafted a legislative resolution opposing the Redskins name and distancing the Navajo government from the NCTA. He stressed that people should differentiate between the NCTA and the Nation’s government. “I must remind the public that the endorsement is not from the Navajo Nation government or the Navajo Nation as a whole,” he said.

“I know this really hurts our inter-tribal relationships around the country,” Butler added. ”As a council member, I’ve been very involved statewide and on the national level with advocacy efforts with other tribal leaders and something like this, it does affect unity and our working relationships inter-tribally.”

The Navajo Nation is not a member of the National Congress of American Indians, which recently published a white paper called “Ending the Legacy of Racism in Sports & the Era of Harmful ‘Indian’ Mascots,” but it does partner with NCAI on issues of common concern.

“The NCTA is putting us in an awkward position because some tribes, especially on the east coast, are fighting this aggressively. At the end of the day, we have to work with those tribes as well and the NCTA is sending the wrong message by endorsing the utilization of that term,” Butler said. “It’s very upsetting, it’s shameful, it’s wrong, it’s derogatory and the Redskins should be ashamed of themselves.”


MacDonald and members of the NCTA met Snyder last fall after he began his tour of Indian country, seeking support for his team name and mascot. A friend of Snyder’s told the Washington Post that the trips to Indian country were motivated by Snyder’s “feelings about the pain and depression – depression is the word he has used with me – of Native Americans who have no jobs, who have obesity issues, whose children are suffering.”

The trips also coincide with launching of a national campaign against the team name supported by the Oneida Indian Nation (which owns ICTMN) called “Change the Mascot.”

RELATED: Halbritter Brings ‘Change the Mascot’ Campaign to USET

In recent months, Snyder and his team officials have visited the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a tribe under fire from other tribes for building a casino on Hickory Ground, a site that’s sacred to the Muscogee Creek Indians, and the poverty-stricken Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, among other tribes. Redskins spokesman Tony Wyllie told the Washington Post that Snyder and company have taken more than a dozen unpublicized trips around Indian country.

RELATED: The Battle For Hickory Ground

While those trips were unpublicized, Snyder’s pursuit of the Navajo Code Talkers was no secret. In late November, the Redskins plane flew MacDonald, and members George James Sr. and George Willie Sr. from Gallup, New Mexico to D.C. for the November 25 Washington-San Francisco game to “honor” them, accompanied by a blitz of media attention.

Suzan Harjo wrote of the event: “The Redskins’ ‘honoring’ of Navajo code talkers consisted of four frail veterans standing in the end zone and receiving a round of applause. Three of the four Navajo elders wore Redskins jackets, with the new-clothes price tags still hanging at their wrists. These seniors probably thought this was another in a long line of recent recognitions of their WWII achievements some 70 years ago, rather than any implied endorsement of the team’s name.”

Related: Red*kins ‘Honor’ Codetalkers—How Low Will They Go?

On hearing about the Code Talkers endorsement of the Redskins, Harjo honed in on MacDonald’s involvement. “He has a long history of exploiting his people,” she said, “and I think this is an example of that.”


MacDonald has a simple explanation for the endorsement: he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the name, and he claims other Navajo feel the same way. “So far as we’re concerned, so far as people are concerned here at Navajo, redskins have always meant Native Americans or Indians to us – nothing more. So I don’t know who decided to make that a slur word or offensive. To us, redskins, whiteskins, blackskins, yellowskins, brownskins – we here on earth did not create the color of human skins; it was the Great Spirit that created us with different colors and we honor His creation and have no problem with anyone using those colors to identify the Lord’s creation.”

Asked if he’d mind if his grandchildren were called redskins, he said, “No! As a matter of fact we have schools right here on Navajo Nation – Red Mesa school – it’s a Navajo high school. The school [nickname] name is Redskins.”

He said he was not familiar with the origins of the name, or the 1755 Phips Proclamation in Maine that detailed the bounty prices the colonial government paid for Indian scalps, “but humans around the world have different colored skin – what’s wrong with calling them by the color of their skin?” he said.
The suggestion that most Native Americans and others see the name as a hateful racist word set MacDonald on an anti-media diatribe. “You press people! I don’t know what’s wrong with you! We have so many issues with Native American people – states, the federal government stealing our water, taking our land. There’s poverty and high unemployment on Indian reservations. Why don’t you go over there and report those things? Is the change of [the] name going to change poverty on Navajo? Will that create thousands of jobs?

“There’s the cancer rate, as well as diabetes, alcoholism, the suicide rate – all much higher than outside society. It’s a third-world nation in the back door of the United States. Report that! Forget about this name change business. We can talk about that after we put the Indian back on equal footing with the rest of the world.”

MacDonald brushed aside the fact that studies show the offensive name is emotionally and psychologically harmful to Indian children. “The children here at Navajo at Red Mesa don’t want to change their name, they want to remain redskins,” he said.


The NCTA endorsement of the Redskins name passed by a vote of 7-0-0, meaning only seven code talkers attended the meeting. MacDonald said there are currently around 40 code talker members and all of them were notified of the meeting, but several descendants said their fathers and grandfathers were not notified.

Ron Kinsel, son of Code Talker John Kinsel, added that his dad did not approve of the endorsement of the Redskins name or the way the vote was conducted. “It was done without the association’s awareness. They were trying to pass it without a quorum,” Kinsel said.

MacDonald told ICTMN that the association’s bylaws define a quorum as 10 percent of the total member and therefore the seven-member vote was legitimate. However, Section 13 of the NCTA bylaws says, “The greater of ten (10) voting members or ten (10) percent of the voting members” constitutes a quorum, meaning that 10 members were required for the vote. The bylaws also mandate that “Notice of any meeting shall be given by oral or written notice delivered to each member. . . not less than ten (10) days nor more than fifty (50) days before the date of the meeting.”

The NCTA endorsement has mobilized the code talkers’ descendants into action. A meeting for concerned descendants of Navajo Code Talkers has been scheduled for Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 9:00 a.m. at Cafe Iina at the Navajo Nation Museum. Duvonne Manuelito, whose late grandfather James Manuelito was one of the original 29 code talkers, said it’s an opportunity for all the code talkers’ descendants to come together and plan a strategy to protect their fathers’ and grandfather’s legacy. “We need to let people know there’s another side to what’s going on.”


NFL may throw flag on N-word, but what about the ‘R-word’?

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NFL considers penalty for ‘abusive’ talk

(CNN) — This week, the elite owners of the National Football League are considering instituting a 15-yard penalty for any NFL player caught using the N-word on the field.

Noble gesture? Sure. Clueless? Absolutely.

Why is it bad to demean a player of African descent, but the pejorative “Redskins” is still just fine for use as the name of the Washington football team? Makes no sense.

As a Native American, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and someone who participates in the Native American community and doesn’t just claim to be Native American because I have a picture somewhere of a great-grandma who had high cheekbones, I wonder: Hey NFL, why aren’t you just as pissed about the R-word?

Simon Moya-Smith

Simon Moya-Smith

I’m not black, and although I find the N-word repugnant and wrong, I’m not here to rage about it. I’m here, in fact, to make a point.

Throughout the last NFL season, Native Americans diligently and consistently worked to remind the conscientious objector (not the bigot — you can’t get much into the brain of a bigot) that Redskin is a racial slur. And we, the descendants of those who survived the Founding Fathers and westward expansion and Christian boarding schools, will not sit idly by as opulent white men tell us that the R-word isn’t an epithet and that it’s part of their tradition.

Don’t mistake me here, folks. Privilege in sports isn’t just white. I encounter African-Americans in Redskins garb and Latinos in Cleveland Indians jerseys.

In fact, this was the case last week on the D train here in New York City when, in a moment, I had enough of it all and encountered a tall black man with headphones on his ears and a Redskins lid on his skull.

He was standing, and I was standing. We faced each other, backs to the sliding doors, and I remember staring and glaring at his hat, then at his eyes, then up again to his cap. It wasn’t long, maybe just one stop, before he ripped his headphones off and asked me if I had a problem.

“With your hat,” I said. “So, yeah, I do.”

He paused for a quick second and seemed a bit perplexed by my response. He probably thought I was a mad fan of a different team — the kind of person who fights in stadium parking lots with beer in his gut and hate in his heart for any insolent denizen who dares don the logo of the visiting team.

“What a privilege,” I continued, “to be able to walk into a subway and not have to see someone wearing a hat with the stereotypical likeness of your people on it and a racist pejorative to accompany the image.”

And it gets better. I was on a Canadian radio show recently discussing the utter vulgarity of the R-word when a caller said to me, “You know, it’s so trivial. It’s just a word. …”

“But isn’t ‘colored’ just a word, too?” I barked. “Would you be so audacious as to make the same argument to an African-American about that word?” I waited for a loathsome rebuttal, but I all I got in return was dead Canadian air.

So, if you’re still curious “what makes the red man red?” (Thanks again, Disney’s “Peter Pan”), all you have to do is go to New York City and see the bevy of Christopher Columbus statues, and then go to Ohio and see the wiggy white men painted in red-face at the Cleveland Indians game and then end up back in Landover, Maryland, where the white and black and brown Washington Redskins taunt you, and then still ask: “What’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal. It’s wrong.

I recently asked my Native elder in the West about what he thinks of the term. He said, “I’m not red … I’m pissed.” And so am I — because if you’re not pissed, you’re not paying attention.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Simon Moya-Smith.

Editor’s note: Simon Moya-Smith is a citizen of the Oglala Lakota Nation and a writer living in New York City. He has a master’s from the Columbia University School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter @Simonmoyasmith.