Why Washington football team’s name isn’t honorable

On Aug. 10, Guy Farmer opined in the Nevada Appeal he supported the racist name of the Washington professional football team. He’s entitled to his opinion, flawed as it is. He and others apparently do not know the true history of the Native American and the origin of the word “redskin.”

As Tim Giago, editor and publisher of the Native Sun News, recently wrote: “There was a time in the not so glorious past of this country when bounties were being offered for “Redskins.” Literally! The skin of an Indian man, woman or child brought a bounty to the person who bagged the “Redskin.” Most history books have long since erased this little part of American history because it does not reflect well upon the imagined morals of a nation.”

The issue on the racist name of the Washington football team was not just recently stirred up by President Obama, Sen. Harry Reid, 49 other U.S. senators, numerous religious organizations, sports commentators, national Indian organizations and national news publications.

Mr. Giago wrote an article for Newsweek about the use of the word “redskin” back in 1982. The word has festered for many, many years. And recently, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office did the right thing when it determined the Washington football team name was disparaging. In addition, no dictionary I could find defines the term as “honorable.”

I believe many loyal Washington fans are not offended by the team name because they are not racists and they truly believe the name honors Indian people. And unfortunately, so do some Indian people, as some polls show. So the goal should be to let the non-Indian get to learn the history of native people and then gradually educate themselves out of their ignorance.

Likewise, some Indian people need to “get away from the fort” and rediscover their heritage. This can be done by ensuring the educational system teaches both sides of history and not the one-sided slant it now presents.

Additionally, the media, both written and visual, television and movies, need to correctly verify facts on Indian people before publication to show true representation of the American Indian and not some fabricated myth perpetuated time and again to where it becomes accepted truth.

In the recent movie “The Lone Ranger,” Tonto used the term “stupid white man” to define the lone ranger for his ignorance and bungling ways about Indian people and his lack of common sense. Let us not use this term to define all non-Indians because with a little effort to educate oneself and a resolve to learn the truth, perhaps more people will understand why Indian people deplore, detest and continue to push to have not only the ‘R’ word but all similar depictions of Indian people erased from all representations of the sporting world.

Robert Hunter, a member of the Washoe Tribe, is retired superintendent of the Western Nevada Agency of Bureau of Indian Affairs.


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