I have written at length for many years about the inherent racism in this particular slur, and the incalculable harm that it does—most recently, here. But today, Wings has decided to take the extraordinary step of issuing this public statement in opposition to the team ownership’s continued racist use of the name; its continued attempts to co-opt Indians to use them as “cover” to further their racist and exploitative agenda; and its continued attempts to bribe and browbeat Indians into silence on this issue. This statement, and this particular blog post, are explicitly signed jointly by both of us.
I make this statement today as a matter of cultural and spiritual duty, of my obligation to our Native peoples, and of my obligation to my occupation as a Native artist.
I am unequivocally opposed to any and all use of Native-themed imagery, symbols, and cultural signifiers by non-Natives as mascots or for similar purposes. Appropriating such images and names steals our identity, our cultures, and that which we hold sacred—in many cases, some of the rare things left to us that have not already been stolen, warped beyond recognition, and used by unauthorized persons for improper purposes. I am especially opposed to the inherently racist use, under any circumstances, of the “Red****s” name, which is a vicious slur weighted with the scalps and skins, blood and bones of our peoples. It is a term of theft, rape, torture, murder, and genocide, and it has no place in a civilized society, particularly in so trivial a venue as a sporting event.
Zuni Pueblo is, of course, a sovereign nation, and it can do as its tribal leaders see fit. I express my hope, however, that this is merely an honest mistake on the part of someone there trying to help his or her people without knowing the backstory. Regardless of others’ motivations or intent, however, I cannot in good conscience participate as an artist, and I cannot remain silent.
By Jim Enote
Some of our own people are unconcerned about the issue of mascots. These folks say they are strong in their identity and traditions and belittle those that are offended by the Redskins mascot. If you consider yourself traditionally well adjusted then good for you. However, not everyone is so fortunate. Through the ubiquitous power of modern media many Native children are already associating with images that have little to do with their true tribal identity and I believe we should be concerned about that.
What about Native folks that are proud of the Redskins mascot? I still wonder why they could feel empowered by or proud of an image that denigrates Native peoples? Does association with a mascot image that suggests toughness or dominance make them feel better about themselves? Why not be proud of our Native educators, school principals, lawyers, doctors, military personnel, and engineers to name a few. This is 2014; we are not war whooping savages.
Tomorrow by invitation from the Zuni tribal council, representatives from the Redskins will come to Zuni to seek art made by Zuni artists, especially art that includes the Redskins logo and team colors. The visit is obviously part of spin doctoring the Redskins struggling image. Most of us easily see through the scheme. Why didn’t the Redskins approach the organizers of Santa Fe Indian Market, the Indigenous Fine Arts Market, or any number of other Native art associations representing thousands of outstanding Native artists?
By Rick Cohen
Some of this sounds less like charity and philanthropy and more like the history of a part of the Christian missionary outreach (actively supported by the federal government) to Native Americans in the 1800s. In return for assistance from whites, Native Americans were encouraged and expected to adopt white ways and to be assimilated into white culture. Now, through the philanthropy of Snyder’s NFL team, Native Americans are encouraged to assimilate a racially disparaging team name. That’s the chutzpah of Dan Snyder’s missionary approach to philanthropy, except that he isn’t offering food and assistance in exchange for white culture and religion. He simply wants Native Americans to take the charitable money in return, at a minimum, for turning a blind eye to the racially disparaging team name.
By Joseph Lynch
On Facebook, several people were sounding off about the letter sent out notifying artists that the Washington Redskins would be on the pueblo.
"I'm going to make a poster saying, "I am a Zuni artist and I refuse to be bought by the Washington Redskins," said Facebook user Masika.
"I can't believe it! What has happened to our government? Sadly, it has come down to money... Then there is the last line, that's sad," said another Facebook user Francine.
The last line in that letter read, "Be respectful when you arrive. Do not smell of alcohol or marijuana, or be under the influence."
Another person on Facebook took offense saying, "those lines are basically stereotyping the people of Zuni."