March 24, 2014

Snyder announces Redskins foundation

The story of the week was Dan Snyder's announcement that he's forming a Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The word came in a letter posted on

The news quickly took off in the media:

Native Americans Blast Redskins Gambit To Defuse Name Controversy With Financial Contributions

By Travis WaldronEmbroiled in a controversy surrounding his team’s name, Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder announced in a letter on his team’s web site that announced the Redskins planned to set up a foundation to help Native Americans address a list of other issues that affect the community, a move that was immediately criticized by Native American activists opposed to the name.

Snyder’s letter announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, the result of a “listening tour” he conducted this fall by visiting 100 Native American tribes.

“The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities. With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs,” Snyder wrote in the letter.

The foundation, Snyder said, would seek to help Native Americans address high rates of poverty and other issues facing their communities. According to Snyder, thus far, the foundation has donated jackets, some basketball shoes and a backhoe to various tribes.

“For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved,” Snyder wrote. “As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions.”
Suzan Shown Harjo was one of the first to criticize this move:Suzan Shown Harjo, an activist who has fought the name and others like it for decades, told ThinkProgress that she regarded the foundation as a public relations stunt that showed Snyder’s “arrogance” when dealing with Native American issues.

“We’ll see how long that goes and what issues they address and how,” Harjo said. “Many, many people and groups have parachuted into Indian country and thought they had the ideal solution because they had spent a hot minute with some of our people.”

That Snyder needed a listening tour to discover the plight of Native Americans may be revealing in and of itself. “Does he think he’s the only person to figure this out?” Harjo asked. “Native America is impoverished? He just now figured that out? We know what the pressing issues are. We’re the ones who’ve been dealing with them all our lives. What an insult. The whole thing. This is a stunt. To me, it’s a stunt. But we’ll see. Supposedly it’s a change of heart, but it’s not a change of mind. And it’s not a change of name.”

Harjo noted that Snyder isn’t listening as closely as he says he is, because groups like Oneida and the National Congress of American Indians and politicians who work on Native American issues insist that names like “Redskins” make addressing the larger issues facing the communities even harder. NCAI often touts research showing that names like “Redskins” have adverse psychological and sociological effects on Native communities and their youth in particular, and the organization produced an ad around the Super Bowl to highlight diversity among Native Americans that is diminished by blanket monikers like the team’s name.

“Is he really going to put up $50 million of his own money for a suicide prevention program?” Harjo said, pointing back to the research highlighting the indirect effects of Native American imagery. “Does he understand that part of teenage suicides, which are the worst in the country, part of that comes from low self-esteem and part of that comes from negative imaging, of which his franchise is one of the worst offenders? So he can cry about high rates of suicides but he doesn’t begin to understand how he’s contributing to that and that this is a real matter of life and death.”
Redskins owner Dan Snyder ridiculed by Indian leader for promise of aid to Native Americans

By The Associated PressWashington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's attempt to assist Native Americans is "somewhere between a PR assault and bribery," an American Indian activist said Monday night.

Suzan Shown Harjo told The Associated Press that Snyder is showing the "same arrogance" that he's shown previously when defending a team nickname that many consider offensive.
The Oneida Indian Nation also was quick to respond:

Oneida Indian Nation Statement Regarding Foundation Announcement by Washington NFL Team Owner Dan SnyderOneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter said in response to the announcement:

“We’re glad that after a decade of owning the Washington team, Mr. Snyder is finally interested in Native American heritage, and we are hopeful that when his team finally stands on the right side of history and changes its name, he will honor the commitments to Native Americans that he is making.

"We are also hopeful that in his new initiative to honor Native Americans’ struggle, Mr. Snyder makes sure people do not forget that he and his predecessor George Preston Marshall, a famous segregationist, have made our people’s lives so much more difficult by using a racial slur as the Washington team’s name.”

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