December 25, 2008

"Redskin" predates Columbus?

Another debate with my Mohawk correspondent on the origin of "redskin":White, black, yellow and red. The colors represent the different races. I trust you can decide which race goes which which color.The Iroquois didn't know about the white, black, or yellow races until after Columbus arrived. The European contacts probably influenced their choice of color. No doubt the Iroquois heard Europeans calling them "red men" and adopted that color as theirs.

If you disagree, show me the evidence that the Iroquois knew of the four races before Columbus. Good luck.

But this color claim is irrelevant to my argument. I haven't condemned every use of the word "red" as applied to Indians. I've condemned only the word "redskin," which most Native people consider an ethnic slur. You're wasting time defending the color red when I'm talking about the specific word "redskin."

What the evidence says...while some people may cringe at the sight and sound of the word "redskin", others not so much.Here are some quotes from my Redskins page:Among the mountain of evidence considered by the trademark judges over the first seven years of litigation were examples of the way the R-word was used in newspaper headlines, showing no difference between 20th century sports headlines and 19th century news headlines.

"Redskins Start Bloodletting Today," "More Cuts Likely to Follow Full-Scale Redskin Warfare," "Redskins Ambushed," "Redskins Back on the Warpath" and "Giants Massacre Redskins: General Custer Avenged" were sports headlines in the 20th century.

Nineteenth-century news headlines were "Custer's Men Lured Into Trap by Wily Redskins," "On the Warpath ... Redskins Attack," "Redskins Sent to the Happy Hunting Ground" and "Ready for Battle ... The Rebellious Redskins."
And:"I did a search in Google Groups," wrote Nunberg, "and found a number of citations that demonstrate that the word is still widely used in its pejorative sense. I attach these; the names of the relevant discussion groups are in parens. These are all from the last ten years or so:"

— "Hey Redskin: Go back to the Indian Reservation and make some illegal booze." (

— "These redskin c***sucks up at the reservation are now claiming that THEY own the portion of Nebraska that pertains to Whiteclay....Times like this make me wish Custer had access to air support and a couple of tactical nukes." (alt.tasteless)

— "Hop down to Any Boat store. Don't you know how to read? I bet your one of the redskin, indian whoop de do's who object to seeing sports teams demeaning native americans and bitch about everything." (alt.scooter)

— "I am getting f***ing tired of these damn redskins belly aching about how the paleface came and stole their land. Why don't they get off their lazy, reservation living-asses and start working?" (alt.discrimination)

— "As I said the white Europeans had 'firesticks' for CENTURIES before the redskin savages even HEARD about them! The redskin savages didn't even have the incredibly complex machine known as 'the wheel' until CENTURIES after other races had it! They were a VERY backwards people!" (alt.atheism)

— "Those indian savages instead opted for much more equisite forms of torture and methods of creating intense pain in their redskin neighbor victims." (Thread, "Indians Are Sleaze Merchants,"

— "I stopped into a New York club and found an American Indian bar-tending. I ordered a Manhattan and the redskin f***er charged me twenty-four dollars!" (3do.bad-attitude)
And my conclusion:Note the mention of the "voluminous evidence about the meaning and use of the R-word and how most Native Americans despise it." This evidence convinced three judges to unanimously rule the name "Redskins" was offensive and therefore not protected by patent and trademark law.

Unless you've reviewed this voluminous evidence and can rebut it, I'd say it stands as the definitive word on how most Native Americans feel about "Redskins." Without further input, I'll go with the judges who have reviewed the voluminous evidence over a columnist who hasn't.
"Red" isn't "redskin"My people, six nations people are more offended by "indian giver" and "wagonburner" than "redskin", because in "My" culture Natives are identified on our medicine wheel as "red".Why do you think the Iroquois chose this color? Because they have red skins? Because red is the color of blood and warfare? Because it's the color of the creator in Haudenosaunee myth? Because it looks good in interior decorating and fashion designs? Because the Iroquois lived in communes and communists are "red"? Because they were big fans of Red Ryder, Red Skelton, or the Red Sox? Because the other races choose white, black, and yellow and red was the only good color left?

I could go on, but I trust you see my point. There's no necessary connection between the color red and the Indians' skin color. Your people probably adopted red for a reason other than the one you're suggesting: that they consider themselves "redskins."

Whatever the origins of the color, "red" and "redskin" are two different words today. It's like the difference between "cock" (as in rooster) and "cocksucker." They both contain the word "cock," but the differences and the context make one an insult.

Sticking it to the manI stand for any other Natives trying to STICK it to the MAN!The purveyors of Redskin magazine are sticking it to their fellow Natives with their magazine title. If they changed the title, I'd be willing to help them stick it to the MAN.Any parent knows that if you say something to a child long enough, and depending how you say it will hurt them. It is the context that is important.That's my point, not yours. Natives have heard "redskins" used against them as a slur for a couple of centuries, at least. If it wasn't offensive early on, it's become offensive through repeated use as a slur.Are you offended by honkie, ghost, etc...?Not really. But then, no one has ever called me these names. They certainly haven't applied them to me and my people consistently for hundreds of years.

I don't get offended, in general. I'm not criticizing Redskin magazine because it hurt my feelings. I'm passing on what I've learned about Native feelings toward the word "redskin." It offends many of them and I'm reporting that.


Below:  A Mohawk Indian? Or another devilish "redskin"?

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