July 07, 2014

"Redskins" on wrong side of history

Three interesting takes on the "Redskins" team name:

Scholar Launches Google Doc 'Collective Voice' Campaign to Opposes 'Redskins' Name

By Simon Moya-SmithA Native American scholar has taken it upon herself to combat the ubiquitous, albeit false, argument that the majority of Native Americans do not consider the Washington team name offensive.

Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee and a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has launched a Google Doc that allows Native Americans who oppose of the pejorative to sign their name and prove the argument erroneous.

Currently, the Google Doc is meant solely for Native Americans, as Keene writes in a note on her blog, Native Appropriations.

“Right now, this list is for Native peoples only. I may make an ally list in the future, but our voices as Indigenous Peoples are often silenced on this issue, so we need to be able to make our voices heard and have our own space to come together,” Keene told ICTMN. “This is not to be discriminatory or dismiss the important efforts of non-Natives toward the cause, I just need to be able to say that I have a list of X number of Native peoples. Thank you for your understanding!”

Keene said in an email that she does not refer to the Google Doc as a petition, but a “collective voice.”

“I think it’s different than [a petition],” she said. “It’s a collective voice, thousands of indigenous peoples saying, ‘We’re here, and we care about the ways we are represented’.”
Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, former chairman of the Blackfeet Nation, “loved every part of the Redskins.” But his grandson doesn't:

One Native American family with Redskins ties disagrees on whether name is offensive

By Theresa VargasAfter the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board issued its June 18 ruling, Bill Wetzel, 39, wrote on his Twitter account: “& now cue Dan Snyder & Bruce Allen bringing up my grandfather creating the logo to defend the racial slur of a name.”

He had seen team executives use similar tactics before. As criticism against the franchise has mounted in the past year, team officials have showcased Native Americans standing by their side. At one game in November, the team honored four Navajo code talkers and released a video that featured one of the war heroes saying, “Hail to the Redskins!” The team also sent out a series of e-mails titled “Community Voices” that contained quotes from fans with indigenous backgrounds.

More recently, a week and a half before a religious group was scheduled to vote on a boycott of the team—one that was later unanimously approved—the team’s chief financial officer had Donald Wetzel Sr., his son Donald Wetzel Jr. and his brother Mike Wetzel talk to a top minister of the United Church of Christ.

“Right now, anybody still fighting for it, they’re on the wrong side of history,” Bill Wetzel said of the team’s name. Two of the most vocal opponents of the name are the Oneida Indian Nation and the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest and largest Native American organization that represents tribes across the country.

“The best you can say is many indigenous people and tribes are either indifferent or apathetic to it, but that’s not the same as being for it,” Wetzel said. “And even those people who are for it wouldn’t allow anybody to come up to them or their children and address them by that name. They’d be liars if they said so.”

Wetzel, a writer and the curator for an indigenous reading series in Tucson, said he has remained mostly quiet on the issue, knowing it’s a sensitive matter for his family. But even if it causes rifts with his relatives, he said he is speaking up now because “you don’t want to go down in history with your name synonymous with a racial slur.”
Ironically, Dan Snyder's father wrote a book titled Human Rights in which he discussed Indians:

The Problem With Native American Slurs, According To Dan Snyder's Dad

By Dave McKennaGerald Snyder's certainly no bleeding heart, but his book makes clear that no one was dealt a worse hand than the folks at the root of the Redskins name squabble. American Indians' "cry for human rights has gone the longest unheeded," Snyder writes. After enduring the federal government's genocidal efforts and serial treaty-breaking, the author points out, the native peoples now put up with the hurtful slurs of their fellow Americans. An unnamed Indian tells Snyder that "some people still refer to us as 'bucks' and 'squaws.'"

Snyder connects these casual epithets to a more pernicious variety of prejudice. "The Indians are struggling for full human rights," he writes. "Their main problem: unemployment, with discrimination against them because they are so 'different.'" And though the name-calling is hardly the worst obstacle to prosperity confronting the native peoples, the Indian tells Snyder, it is "still a part of our unemployment problem."

Yet, Snyder the Elder does more than merely catalog man's inhumanity to man. He also points out ways that wrongs might be righted, and he lauds the righteous. In his author's note at the beginning of the book, Snyder specifically thanks the National Council of the Churches of Christ (also known as the National Council of Churches, or NCC). He later commends NCC for getting involved in rights battles in "the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, Cuba, El Salvador, Argentina, South Africa and Iran."

To that list we can now add "Ashburn, Va.," home of Dan Snyder's football team. Just last month, the board of an NCC affiliate called the United Church of Christ (UCC) voted unanimously to boycott all things Redskins unless and until Snyder drops the name.

"Changing the name of the Washington NFL team will not solve the problems of our country's many trails of broken promises and discriminatory isolation of our Native American communities," said Rev. John Deckenback, CEO of UCC's Central Atlantic Conference, while urging parishioners to stay away from Redskins games and stop wearing licensed clothing. "However, a change in the nation's capital can send a strong message."

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