How Many Native Americans Think ‘Redskins’ Is a Slur?

CBS DC, October 8, 2013

The name of a certain pro football team in Washington, D.C., has inspired protests, hearings, editorials, lawsuits, letters from Congress, even a presidential nudge. Yet behind the headlines, it’s unclear how many Native Americans think “Redskins” is a racial slur.

Perhaps this uncertainty shouldn’t matter—because the word has an undeniably racist history, or because the team says it uses the word with respect, or because in a truly decent society, some would argue, what hurts a few should be avoided by all.

But the thoughts and beliefs of native people are the basis of the debate over changing the team name. And looking across the breadth of Native America—with 2 million Indians enrolled in 566 federally recognized tribes, plus another 3.2 million who tell the Census they are Indian—it’s difficult to tell how many are opposed to the name.

The controversy has peaked in the last few days. President Barack Obama said Saturday he would consider getting rid of the name if he owned the team, and the NFL took the unprecedented step Monday of promising to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation, which is waging a national ad campaign against the league.

What gets far less attention, though, is this:

There are Native American schools that call their teams Redskins. The term is used affectionately by some natives, similar to the way the N-word is used by some African-Americans. In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term offensive, although many question the cultural credentials of the respondents.


In 2004, the National Annenberg Election Survey asked 768 people who identified themselves as Indian whether they found the name “Washington Redskins” offensive. Almost 90 percent said it did not bother them.

But the Indian activist Suzan Shown Harjo, who has filed a lawsuit seeking to strip the “Redskins” trademark from the football team, said the poll neglected to ask some crucial questions.

“Are you a tribal person? What is your nation? What is your tribe? Would you say you are culturally or socially or politically native?” Harjo asked. Those without such connections cannot represent native opinions, she said.

Indian support for the name “is really a classic case of internalized oppression,” Harjo said. “People taking on what has been said about them, how they have been described, to such an extent that they don’t even notice.”

Harjo declines to estimate what percentage of native people oppose the name. But she notes that the many organizations supporting her lawsuit include the Cherokee, Comanche, Oneida and Seminole tribes, as well as the National Congress of American Indians, the largest intertribal organization, which represents more than 250 groups with a combined enrollment of 1.2 million.

“The ‘Redskins’ trademark is disparaging to Native Americans and perpetuates a centuries-old stereotype of Native Americans as ‘blood-thirsty savages,’ ‘noble warriors’ and an ethnic group ‘frozen in history,’” the National Congress said in a brief filed in the lawsuit.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says the term is “very offensive and should be avoided.” {snip}


It was a white man who applied it to this particular football team: Owner George Preston Marshall chose the name in 1932 partly to honor the head coach, William “Lone Star” Dietz, who was known as an Indian.

“The Washington Redskins name has thus from its origin represented a positive meaning distinct from any disparagement that could be viewed in some other context,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in June to 10 members of Congress who challenged the name.

Marshall, however, had a reputation as a racist. He was the last NFL owner who refused to sign black players—the federal government forced him to integrate in 1962 by threatening to cancel the lease on his stadium. When he died in 1969, his will created a Redskins Foundation but stipulated that it never support “the principle of racial integration in any form.”

And Dietz, the namesake Redskin, may not have even been a real Indian. Dietz served jail time for charges that he falsely registered for the draft as an Indian in order to avoid service. According to an investigation by the Indian Country Today newspaper, he stole the identity of a missing Oglala Sioux man.


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  • Bob

    If the Redskins actually change their name….I will wear Redskins gear for the rest of my life. As well as Indians (with the stupid looking indian on the cap).

  • Herman

    The Left doesn’t care about the name of the Redskins. That nickname has been around for decades.
    It is just part of their never ending attack on the tradition of white people.

  • Spartacus

    “…because in a truly decent society, some would argue, what hurts a few should be avoided by all.”


    Dark-skins hurt far more people than any words ever will, but you can’t avoid them or else you’re “evil”…

  • ncpride

    I wonder if they find the phrase ‘sitting Indian Style’ (legs crossed) offensive, too? Perhaps we should refrain from mentioning Indians at all and erase them from all history books. Nah, liberals wouldn’t allow that.They’re too useful for bashing Whites and brainwashing our children about how evil they are and their ancestors were.

  • [Guest]

    It’s not so much about whether Redskins/Indians/Native Americans are offended. It’s about turning everything that is familiar and traditional upside-down.

  • joesolargenius

    Well if they do have to change their name ,I suggested the Washington Rednecks the other day but can no longer find that post so I have now came up with this one (The Washington Black Thugs) or perhaps the Washington Trayvons would be considered as a tribute to Saint Trayvon whom has now been relocated to a much warmer climate, thank you George you White Hispanic you.

  • Truthseeker

    Indian support for the name “is really a classic case of internalized
    oppression,” Harjo said. “People taking on what has been said about
    them, how they have been described, to such an extent that they don’t
    even notice.”

    White guilt is really a classic case of internalized oppression. White people take on what is said about them, that their race is uniquely evil, that they are the beneficiaries of “white privilege,” that they owe it to the rest of the world to give away their legacy, to such an extent that they don’t even notice.

    Hey, this is fun!

  • me

    Every ‘minority’ is in a constant state of outrage. They’re always offended by something or other. I am offended by their being offended–especially about the stupidest things imaginable. Offense=$

  • JohnEngelman

    The controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins seems like the way a few self declared Indian “leaders” are trying to draw attention to themselves.

    • Eagle_Eyed

      He who is most aggrieved gets the most media attention, or something along those lines…

  • Herman

    Just more proof how hard it is to find examples of white “racism”.
    Nicknames for football teams?

  • bigone4u

    Behind this tempest in a teapot are the Jewish intellectuals, other Cultural Marxists on campus, race baiters like SPLC, and professional Indians like Elizabeth Warren. The NFL has become a dumping ground for trash like Aaron Hernandez and Michael Vick, so screw them as they meet with the tribesmen.

  • Paleoconn

    You can be sure that the 10% who were offended live in cities surrounded by White liberals. Their red skin is no barrier to the PC poison of their do-gooder lily neighbors.

  • Tacitus1

    How many American Indians call themselves “native Americans” ? I suspect that most identify themselves as Crow, Sioux, Navajo, Cherokee…ext White liberals created “native American” just as they always refer to black Americans as “African” American. It will be white left-wingers that nails the coffin shut on our country.

    • I’m 3/16 Injun, and I describe myself as Scottish, Irish, Welsh, German, Cherokee and Tuscarora. They are two nations among the six in my ancestry. I look pretty white, but I tan very easily. I even have an ancestral tomahawk: God it is ugly, with tool marks all over it, but it is so sharp. I also have my claymore. I don’t understand the hypersensitivity on the part of some Amerinds to these things. The US has a football team called the Vikings, but northern midwest Yanks of Swedish or Norwegian ancestry do not pretend to be “offended” over this.

      People need to relax a little bit about this.

  • Tacitus1

    As a member of the Audubon Society I can tell you we have destroyed the habitat of Eagles, Falcons, Ravens, Cardinals, Sea-hawks, as well as bears, lions, Bengal tigers, jaguars, panthers, dolphins, and rams. Buffalo Bills celebrates the near extinction of bison. Bronco’s and Colts reminds PETA of animal exploitation.
    Packers and Steelers is reminiscent management exploiting labor. “Saints” should offend atheist. Of course Raiders and Buccaneers engaged in the slave trade. All the following are judged too Eurocentric…..49’ers,Vikings, Titans, Patriots, Cowboys, & Texans. Chiefs is politically incorrect just like redskins.
    The good news is San Diego and New York are okay and may keep their mascots.

    • Tacitus1

      a correction…aircraft have a large carbon footprint so “Jets” must pick a new name…sorry !

  • Tacitus1