The Quechan have been planning a skate park for some time; designs are posted to Facebook and some fund-raising activities have been held. An OAF delegation, led by Executive Director Gary Edwards, had come to town to offer funding to complete the project.
"We respectfully listened to their presentation," said Kenrick Escalanti, President of Kwatsan Media Inc. "But when Gary Edwards referred to himself as a 'redskin' in front of our Nation’s officials, I knew that their visit had ulterior motives."
The OAF crew presented renderings of the park using a color scheme of burgundy and gold--the Washington Redskins' team colors.
The OAF essentially offered the Quechan a blank check, proposing to fully fund the skate park. Additionally, the organization would give every Quechan child an iPad for the purpose of learning their Native language. Edwards told those present that accepting the money and gifts would not be portrayed as an endorsement of the name. "You don't even need to say we gave you anything," he said. The OAF added that it has 147 projects in the works, with cooperation of over 40 tribes.
The Quechan didn't like the sound of any of it.
"We say no," Escalanti says. "There are no questions about this. We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in Native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it."
They denied that any of these tribes were required to support the name, a dictionary-defined slur that newspapers like The Oregonian (since 1992) and most recently, The Seattle Times refuse to print instead using the descriptor the “Washington DC team.” Also, on June 14, 2014 the United Churches of Christ, Central Atlantic Conference passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the Washington Redsk*ns by their 40,000 members.
Mr. Edwards, who claims Cherokee heritage repeatedly referred to himself proudly as a Redsk*n and claimed that, “The opposition is creating the old assimilation policy now being enacted today.” Escalanti said that Edwards appeared to believe that opposition to the slur is purely from White Liberals, despite the persistent opposition of organizations like the National Congress of American Indians which represents the majority of tribal members in the United States and first issued a resolution opposing the name in 1969. And the Native plaintiffs that filed the successful Trademark including lead plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse (Navajo). This trademark case was organized by Suzan Shown Harjo (Muskogee Creek) long-time advocate for changing the name who filed the first trademark case in 1992.
Edwards final thoughts at the meeting on the threat of white people to the Redsk*ns moniker, “we [Native Americans] need to get stronger because if we don’t THEY will annihilate us! That is my sincere heartfelt belief.” He appears to feel that only by being a mascot for a $1.8 billion team can Native Americans continue to exist in this country.
Indian tribe rejects Snyder's offer to fund a skate park
By Erik Brady
Escalanti said no dollar amount was mentioned, but he said the budget for the planned Quechan Memorial Skatepark is $250,000 and "they offered to build it, like a blank check." Kwatsan Media Inc., a nonprofit that runs a radio station, is accepting donations for the skate park, which will be dedicated to suicide prevention in Native youth.
"When we told them the skate park would be dedicated to fallen Native youth, you could see their eyes open up big, like they could smell good PR," Kenrick Escalanti said. "And that really irritated me."
The first meeting with tribal leaders, including three council members, lasted about 20 minutes and the second with Kwatsan Media about 30 minutes, according to Escalanti, who attended both.
One council member asked foundation reps why the team cares about Native American causes now, Escalanti said. "Edwards said they always cared and this is not an issue of the (team) name," Escalanti said. "He said the reason it comes up now is the team and the NFL have a diversity policy and they are trying to live by that."
Comment: They've always cared, but they've never done anything about it until now? Okay, sure. Can you say "hypocritical"?
Just say no
Adrienne Keene gives us some background on and analysis of the story:
Kwatsan Tribe refuses Dan Snyder’s “Blood Money”
Additionally, Mr. Edwards is super confused about who is “the opposition” to the name. He seems to think it’s only white people, and that “we” as Natives are all like him, “proud” to be a “Reds***” (which he called himself repeatedly). He told Kenrick, “The opposition is creating the old assimilation policy now being enacted today,” and even made a reference to The Lone Ranger (definitely the epitome of Native knowledge, right?), “In trying to annihilate our image its like that new Lone Ranger movie with the White Man point a gun at the Indian saying It won’t be long until its forgotten your kind ever existed on this continent.”
Right, dude, “the opposition” is trying to “annihilate our image”? What about the hundreds of Native peoples passing resolutions against the name? or the fact that Suzan Harjo (a Native woman) has been fighting your trademark since 1969? Or the fact that I have a running list of over 4000 Native peoples against the name? “Our image” if you’re speaking for the white, outsider-created image of American Indians. That is what we’re seeking to destroy.
But let’s go back to the money, and let’s think about the choice here–a choice that Native peoples in this country have had to make over, and over, and over throughout our history. We have deep and pressing needs in our communities. We have tribal members freezing to death, we have students unable to learn because their schools are falling apart at the seams, we have suicide rates 3.5 times higher than national averages. Because of centuries of colonialism, our communities have limited options. We are bridled by geographic location, federal red tape and bureaucracy, poverty, and any other number of factors. Then, outsiders come in. They offer us cash, in exchange for natural resources, for land, for mining rights, for oil–and our leaders and communities are faced with a lesser-of-two-evils choice.
Do we take the money even if it is tied to politics and choices that may negatively affect our people further down the road? Of course we would like to think “no”–but it’s not that easy. And it’s a choice we shouldn’t have to make.
In Kwatsan’s case, this skate park isn’t just about having a place for kids to skateboard. It’s tied into suicide prevention and awareness, creating a space for the community to reflect and talk about the issue as well. So here’s a billionaire (Edwards mentioned in the meeting that Snyder is a “billionaire over again”) offering to build the park now, creating that space immediately, saying they don’t need their named tied to it or even to be mentioned.
But Kenrick said no. They escorted the OAF team off the reservation quickly, not letting them hang around, not welcoming them, not letting them feel they were doing something “good” for the Indians. That act is one that needs to be applauded.