October 3, 2011

Paper Calls Out ‘Niggerhead’; Uses ‘Redskins’ in Adjacent Story

WASHINGTON – Anyone who read the story The Washington Post published over the weekend, lamenting Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry’s alleged inaction on changing the name of the “Niggerhead” hunting camp his family has frequented for decades, knew that this was not good news for Perry. But few in the mainstream media have pointed out The Post’s own abuse of language in continuing to refer to the D.C. football team by the name “Redskins”— a word that many Indians find just as offensive as many African Americans find the N-word.

On its website, in fact, The Washington Post juxtaposed its stories about Perry next to a story, titled “Redskins on Hold, Escape Win Over Rams.” The newspaper’s editors apparently did not recognize the irony.Redskins Washington Post1 270x364 Paper Calls Out ‘Niggerhead’; Uses ‘Redskins’ in Adjacent Story

Some American Indians have chosen to write letters to The Washington Post to highlight the matter, noting that dozens of other newspapers across the nation have decided to stop publishing the “Redskins” name, and instead refer to the team as “the Washington football team.” Some publications have likewise stopped publishing the derogatory Indian-themed team names of some colleges and other schools as well.

Editors from these other publications have given the reasoning that they know the word is derogatory, and just because the owner of the team, Daniel Snyder, won’t change it, doesn’t mean that they have to publish the offensive word.

According to historical accounts, the word has been long used in a disparaging fashion to describe Indians and likely begun in conjunction with scalping of Indians during colonial times. A group of Indians continues to sue the team in federal court, hoping to challenge its trademark.

Bob Gough, a leader with the Intertribal Council on Utility Policy, wrote to Post Ombusman Patrick B. Paxton to highlight his displeasure: “I saw the top stories listed and could not miss the ironic, unconscious hypocrisy blatantly displayed,” Gough wrote. “I am calling this to your attention, since most folks in Washington, D.C. seem to be completely oblivious to racial offensiveness which your football team’s name still carries in Indian country, yet the first two lead stories decry the use of the ‘N’ word in compound form with another body part.

“Sir, which is worse: That a potential presidential candidate from Texas has a family hunting camp that was once named ‘Niggerhead’ or the Nation’s Capital, where he is hoping to move, still proudly supporting a sports team named ‘Redskins’?

“Your paper’s contra-positioning of ‘Niggerhead’ v. ‘Redskins,’ with expressed concern over only one of these terms, seems sadly, but blatantly racist and hypocritical.”

Paxton has not yet responded to Gough’s concerns and to those from other Indians. An inquiry to Paxton from Indian Country Today Media Network has yet to be returned.

In a coincidence of sorts, Washington Post Sports Columnist Mike Wise, long a critic of the team’s name, wrote a column published October 1 highlighting the injustice of the continued use of the name. In a purposely facetious report from the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Wise heard from many Indians and non-Indians alike about their distaste for the “Redskins” name. “People don’t even like that name used around here,” a black security guard explained to Wise. “The name came from scalping. In the old days, they took the skin off the head — blood and everything — to prove they killed an Indian. You learn being here what that name means to a lot of the people here.”

Wise also talked to David Grimes, the NMAI’s assistant building manager, who told the columnist that contractors hired to work on repairs and exhibits at the museum are “told not to wear jerseys, hats or any paraphernalia of any team who uses Native mascots or images.” “Anything Redskins-related or even [Kansas City] Chiefs stuff is not allowed in here,” Grimes told Wise. “Workers are told to be sensitive to that issue.”

It remains to be seen whether Wise – who again noted his views against the team’s name in his own piece – will ask for similar sensitivity from his own newspaper.

The Native American Journalists Association has detailed dozens of instances of news publications that have decided to stop using the R-word in reference to the team.

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December 30, 2011

2011’s Memorable Quotes: Good and Bad Part 1

Every year Indian country is filled with leaders, politicians, broadcasters and talking heads provide memorable quotes for anyone listening to catch. Some ignorant, some out of touch, and some commendable. Indian Country Today Media Network has compiled a list of quotes that we will break down into three parts, Perceptions, Politics, and On The Past, the Present, the Future, that will be shared over the New Year’s weekend.


“Why is there a Bureau of Indian Affairs? There is no Bureau of Puerto Rican Affairs or Black Affairs or Irish Affairs. And no group in America has been more helped by the government than the American Indians, because we have the treaties, we stole their land. But 200 years later, no group does worse.” – TV talking head John Stossel, speaking on Fox News about how the U.S. government has done more during the course of 200 years to “help” Indians than anyone else.

“What group of people would even want ‘help’ like this?”—Tex G. Hall, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, in response to Stossel’s claim.

“Our grandfathers well understood that each time a new promise was held out another was about to be broken.”—Joe Valandra, on the importance of protecting sovereignty

“So you go and so you study the area and you find out what happened, what did the indigenous people worship, you know?  And…and…and…if they did blood sacrifice, like, we found some areas where they were very violent because the former culture was a murderous violent …like in Texas here and all the coast around Houston and Galveston and some other areas the Native American people were cannibals, you know? And they ate people. And so you could see a manifestation of that in the churches where people turned against people and kinda cannibalized other people’s ministries.”—Evangelist Cindy Jacobs, in a YouTube video posted by Right Wing Watch praising Rick Perry’s August 6 cluster-prayer event, The Response. Jacobs is a Perry supporter.

“If my Haudenosaunee passport is a fantasy document, I’m a fantasy person living in a fantasy land and looking at a fantasy border.”—Joyce King, St. Regis Mohawk Tribe citizen, on being told her Haudenosaunee passport is a ‘fantasy document’ when it was confiscated by the Canadian Border Services Agency.

“Citizenship by blood quantum alone is a guarantee of physical extinction. Know the tribal population, the required blood quantum, birth and death rates, rate of exogamous marriage, and the date of extinction is easily calculated. This is not opinion. This is arithmetic.”—ICTMN columnist Steve Russell in his new book, Sequoyah Rising.

“They were rejecting me because I’m unrecognized.”—Marine Sisk-Franco, explaining why she didn’t get a permit to carry an Eagle feather, and the pain of being a member of a tribe not recognized by the federal government.

“The measure of being Indian should be a pain index—How many funerals have you gone to?”—author Sherman Alexie on the many battles over blood quantum and tribal enrollment.

“Most Americans do not even consider whether the language they use about Natives might be considered discriminatory. In fact, when they think about ‘Native Americans,’ the image that comes to mind is a romanticized, historical image, not a contemporary 21st century Native. The notion that we might feel offended by their language does not even enter their minds.”—Stephanie Fryberg, an assistant professor of psychology and affiliate faculty in American Indian Studies at the University of Arizona, explaining why Indians are perennially talked about negatively in mainstream society.

“The celebrations of our extinction turned out, of course, to have been premature. However, certain ideas and themes in the popular culture remain persistent and influential.”—Kevin Gover, Director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, on the use of Native mascots in sports.

“[S]hut the fuck up Dan Snyder, you own the most sickeningly racist relic of a brand in all of professional sports.”—Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan calling out the hypocrisy of the National Football League’s Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder for alleging anti-Semitism based on a newspaper article published in the D.C. City Paper. Snyder in September, facing a public backlash, dropped his lawsuit against the paper.

“(The Redskins name has) been there since the early ‘40s and no one has complained about it. No one has complained until the people from the Indian nations came down here and made their complaint.”—Wiscasset High School Board of Education member Ed Stover in defense of continuing to use the offensive name for the school mascot.

“It’s spreading the word that no matter if you want to play baseball or be a mechanic—whatever it may be—your dream is your dream and nobody’s going to take it away until you take it away from yourself.”—Joba Chamberlain on the importance of emphasizing good news in Indian country.

“Honor the memory of heroic Native warriors like Geronimo, Lori Piestewa and many others, not by promoting false stereotypes, but by bringing attention to the plight of veterans, both Native and non-Native, who continue to be plagued by substandard health care and homelessness.”—ICTMN columnist Ruth Hopkins urging a change in the mindset of the leadership of the U.S. military in the wake of its offensive use of Geronimo as the code-name for Osama Bin Laden.

“To Natives Geronimo is a hero because he fought America. To Natives Bin Laden was evil because he fought America…[try to] explain that to a kid.”—Filmmaker Chris Eyre commenting on the Geronimo/Bin Laden blunder.

“Native people say they feel more welcome in town now, and shopkeepers are picking up some Ojibwe phrases. Promoting the language does a lot to bridge barriers.”—Dr. Anton Treuer, professor of Ojibwe, on the use of Ojibwe language signs in Bemidji, Minnesota.

“Another language is not just a different way to communicate the same thing. It’s a whole other thing. It’s an intricate web of meanings and relationships and thoughts.”—Alaska Native storyteller Ishmael Hope on the artist’s role in preserving Tlingit.

“Currently the public doesn’t know enough about Native people because our news is rarely covered, as many still think our people are in the past.”—Lori Edmo-Suppah, editor of the Sho-Ban News, arguing in January that the mainstream media, including the Huffington Post, need to do a much better job of covering Indian issues.

“It is important as an indigenous people that we not allow Hollywood to define who we are, and I believe we have been very successful in that endeavor.”—Quileute Nation Chairwoman Bonita Cleveland on educating fans of Twilight’s Wolf Pack.

“The first time I saw a Native actor laugh it was Chief Dan George in Little Big Man. I remember thinking, I have never seen a Native actor laugh, ever.”—Neil Diamond, director of Reel Injun, on Indians in the movies.

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January 2, 2012

The Washington Post: Indians ‘Have Waited Too Long for Justice’ over Redskins’ Name

Filed under: News Alerts,Sports — Tags: , , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 4:55 pm

Columnist Courtland Malloy of The Washington Post put together a timeline of the team’s onfield struggles and court battle over the team’s nickname.

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January 29, 2012

A Week in the Life of the Stereotypical Indian

The portrayal of American Indian stereotypes: When is it all going to stop? I begin my rant on what “we as Native people” face in terms of stereotypes in media, films and even little plastic toys found in the bargain bins at thrift stores.

I have enjoyed for many years working with Indian Country Today Media Network and have written a number of arts and entertainment pieces about the history and portrayal of American Indians in film.

I have watched with bitter frustration as John Wayne kicked his Indian guides and shot them in the eyes, Indian corpses laid to rest. I have watched countless cartoons where Indians howl like banshees and attack the forts of soldiers, and Bugs Bunny himself called one perpetrator he shot, a half-breed.

I have to give early filmmakers credit – as they truly did try to capitalize on the idea of a romantic Indian, but these films flopped financially. It wasn’t until the Indians whipped the soldiers and pioneers with tree branches and spit on them before lighting them on fire that the audiences turned out in droves.

The westerns were murder to watch for most Native people, within a few years we were reduced to nothing more than bloodthirsty, stupid, ugg-ing arrow shooters or comic reliefs. Take a look at some of the movies showing now on channels like American Movie Classics which recently played Son of Paleface starring Bob Hope and Iron Eyes Cody. Cody by the way, although he truly did seem to cherish the Native way, was of Italian descent.

When Kevin Costner came out with Dances with Wolves, the attempt at political correctness with the portrayal of Indians was at least regarded and refreshing. But we are in 2012 now, and I don’t feel like we have much progressed. Unless you consider Indians are now at least as cool as the werewolves portrayed in the Twilight movies.

So over the course of one week – I decide to pay very close attention to the stimulus that entered my brain regarding the definition of an American Indian person. I don’t know if it was coincidence – much like if you have ever ridden in a VW bug and you suddenly notice all of the other VW Bugs on the freeway – but I was absolutely amazed at what I experienced from all visceral fronts.

It started with television, of course. I was watching an episode of Storage Wars, when the auctioneer is talking with the other guy that has purchased a unit of Native American artifacts. I was frustrated that ancestral property was being sold for a few hundred bucks but then fuel was added to the fire; unsurprisingly within 30 seconds the comments about scalping started. And so began a telling week.

In my car driving all over Hampton Roads in Virginia, the NFL team adopted by the region is the Washington Redskins. Bumper stickers, T-shirts, jackets, sweatpants, window decals all made their way into my brain for what seemed a hundred times a day. I have been tempted many times to hire a graphic artist to create a giant decal of other “skin-color”-Skins characters alongside the Redskins logo – but then I fear coming across as racist. Truth be told I don’t want to offend another ethnicity – but why is it okay that we are still portrayed this way?

The week continued, I went to a local thrift store – admittedly a guilty pleasure of my wife Delores and myself – and once again I was surprised at the amount of American Indian “education.” In the first glass case sat a large plastic Indian chief next to Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus and a few aisles over was a cheap dream catcher in a plastic bag with a 99 cent tag. I also saw a lunch bag with Indian markings and found in a stack of comic books daffy duck with an Indian headdress standing next to a tipi on the front cover.

We seek answers to this. And it is in our Youth.

We need you. We need more filmmakers like Chris Eyre, Georgina Lightning and Neil Diamond. We need more native actors like Eric Schweig, Gary Farmer, Tantoo Cardinal and others. We need you to launch your social media campaigns against content that you feel does not represent the way you are actually.

Native people have been portrayed as savages and evil doers since contact. But, it’s a new era. We’re entering an age where people are beginning to listen in wonderful ways – just look at the growth of Indian Country Today Media Network. We need you kids; we need your energies, your ideas and your passion.

We are making it happen. And although I had a week full of loud stereotypical voices yelling at my face the incorrect definition of what an Indian is – these days I can sleep at night – because I feel assured that in time, they will continue to dim into non-existence.

Vincent Schilling is a correspondent for ICTMN and the Executive Vice-President of Schilling Media, Inc. He is also an award-winning author of the Native Trailblazer series of books (NativeVoicesBooks.com) and the host of the APCMA nominated BlogTalkRadio program.

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August 8, 2012

Washington Redskins to Indians: Drop Dead!

Filed under: News Alerts,Sports — Tags: , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 5:30 pm

Stephen Sonneveld, a correspondent for the popular sports website BleacherReport.com, wrote an article on July 30 titled “Washington Redskins: NFL Celebrates 80 Years of Disparagement.”

Sonneveld wrote to us alerting us to his piece (he had referenced an article written our own Gale Courey Toensing wrote about the state of Maine doing away with offensive mascots, logos and team names), which he was happy to be able to showcase on a site like Bleacher Report because of it’s largely non-Native readers. Bleacher Report is a well read site, and Sonneveld felt that the non-Native readers might be educated by not only his point of view, but about the many facts he inserted into the piece on the team’s history, the feelings of the team’s owner Dan Synder, and so on. Perhaps, the thinking went, a new population of non-Native readers would be enlightened by Sonneveld’s article.

Unfortunately, things didn’t quite pan out that way.

Instead, the article was removed by the site after the comments section lit up with a bevy of insensitive remarks (ranging from the boringly bone-headed, like one commentator’s “Hail to the REDSKINS” to the seriously misinformed (all grammatical errors belong to the commentators, FYI) non-point, such as “I mean you dont see a bunch of white people protest the vikings because the vikings were murderous rapists.”)

Many of the comments get worse, but to Bleacher Report’s credit, they reinstated the article, with more supporting evidence (including a link to the original lyrics to the Redskins fight song, which has to be read to be believed) and put the comments back up for the world to see in all their inane, insensitive glory.

Sonneveld was happy to see the comments back up. He wrote to us that “some of that ignorance was priceless and only supported the points I made in the piece, that people are more interested about their team then they are about the feelings of Natives.”

We suggest you read the full piece yourself, and, if you want to add your voice to the fray, perhaps you can do what Sonneveld, unfortunately, was unable to do as the original author—educate the masses who were so quick to pile up on him and accuse him of reheating an argument that has, apparently, already been put to bed and that no one is interested in any longer.

That they’re wrong is obvious to us and our readers, but clearly not to them.

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September 6, 2012

Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc.: Legal Battle Continues Over Washington Redskins Name and Logo

Filed under: News Alerts,Sports — Tags: , , — ICTMN Staff @ 5:30 pm

It’s six-years and counting for the legal battle between American Indian petitioners and the Washington Redskins. Today, the petitioners are planning to file papers asking federal authorities to strike down several of the franchise’s trademark registrations for “Redskins” on the firm grounds that the name is a racial slur.

The Washington Post reports that the case, Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc., is essentially symbolic, with the outcome unlikely to effect the Redskins as “trademark officials do not have the authority to halt the sale of goods containing Redskins images or logos, nor can they order the team to pay damages to the petitioners,” the Post‘s Catherine Ho writes. “However, having an unregistered trademark could make it harder for the Redskins to prevent trademark infringers from selling and importing knockoff paraphernalia.”

The case involves six disputed trademark registrations, which includes the team’s cheerleaders, the Redskinettes, as well as the team’s depiction of American Indian man used on their helmets.

Blackhorse v. Pro-Football, Inc. was initially filed in 2006 before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which Ho points out is part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The case was put on a four-year hold, between 2006-2010 while a separate but similar case, Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo, went through the federal court system.

“In Harjo, first filed in 1992, a federal judge ruled in favor of the team in 2003, finding there was not enough evidence to show the Redskins name was so insulting that it could not be protected by a trademark,” Ho writes. “The judge also found that the Native American activists who filed the complaint had waited too long to challenge the trademarks. A federal court of appeals upheld that decision in 2009.”

The trial brief filed today is a summary of the petitioners’ position, based on interviews with Native historians and linguists. The Redskins’ attorneys will have to file a brief in response.

One wonders if those who support the petitioner’s cause might do as the married couple down in Atlanta did when they began making t-shirts that read “Atlanta Barves,” purposely misspelling the Braves team name. They were quickly swamped by Major League Baseball with cease and desist letters and had to shut down their tiny operation. Still, what American Indian or Native supporter wouldn’t welcome a t-shirt that read “Washington Bedskins” with the team’s logo transformed into linens?

Just a thought.

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October 15, 2012

Newspaper Is ‘Unilateraly Renaming the Local NFL Team’ in Washington, D.C.

Filed under: News Alerts,Racism,Sports — Tags: , , , , , — ICTMN Staff @ 9:57 pm

The Washington City Paper is giving you a chance to vote for a new name for Washington, D.C.’s NFL team. Declaring that the paper is “unilaterally renaming the local NFL team to avoid using its racist nickname any longer,” readers can select one of five options in an online poll and whichever wins will be the way City Paper refers to the team from now on, both in print and online.  The five alternatives are:

Washington Pigskins (nickname: The Hogs)

Washington Washingtons

Washington Monuments

Washington Half-Smokes

Washington Bammas (According to the Urban Dictionary, a “bamma” is a term that originated in the metro D.C. area for a person lacking style and/or common sense.)

Click here to vote.

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November 24, 2012

Rash of Racism Toward Native Americans in Schools

Seems there’s been an abundance of racially charged news coming out of schools across the country over the last couple months.

In October, Indian Country Today Media Network reported on the Syracuse, New York mom who was appalled by the game of “Cowboys and Native Americans” played in her son’s elementary school as well as the racial epithet against Native Americans written in the dormitory bathroom of Brown Hall at South Dakota State University.

Then, there was the Chief Short Cake math assignment handed out by a Lakeland Union High School teacher in Wisconsin.

There were also the offensive banners from the homecoming game at Lewiston-Porter High School in Youngstown, New York.

And we’re sure this just scratches the surface. There are also the many mascot issues that still plague the country including the Fighting Sioux in North Dakota and the Washington Redskins.

And remember the cowboys and Indians theme party thrown at the University of Denver in March?

While all of these schools seemed to handle the incidents well and many led to teachable moments for those involved, what can be done to better teach everyone more cultural sensitivity before the incidents occur?

Especially now during November, which is Native American Heritage Month.

Read all the school racism articles here:

New York Mom Offended By ‘Cowboys and Native Americans’ Game at Son’s Elementary School

Racism at South Dakota State University in the Form of Bathroom Graffiti

Chief Short Cake Math Assignment Gaffe Has Lac du Flambeau Members Urging Cultural Sensitivity

Students to Apologize for Cowboys and Indians Party

Offensive Banners Waved at Homecoming Game in New York

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