Never Say Never

Wounded Knee - Not Forgotten
Wounded Knee - Not Forgotten
The Washington football name change issue has been bubbling up again for a few months now.  Dan Snyder, owner of the team has chimed in that the team will "NEVER" change the name, but former star players such as Darrell Green and Art Monk have stated that the serious discussion is warranted.  

I've never given much thought to the issue until very recently when traveling out west in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming and visiting sites of massacres, mass hangings, and reservations that remind one of third-world poverty conditions.  My mind is now firmly made up.  The franchise needs to reverse their position and change the name.

Why?  First, although there is no evidence that the origin of the term was derogatory, there is strong evidence that it became such a term sometime in the mid-1800s as America expanded west into native lands and conflicts increased.  Afterwards, treaties were broken, lands were stolen, and de-armed Indians were rounded up onto reservations.  Its hard to imagine the offensive name being used in a respectful way during this phase of the Indian holocaust, or the decades after in the Boston area where a laundry tycoon named George P. Marshall had purchased the Boston Braves football team in 1933.

A year later he changed the name to the Boston (insert current franchise name here).

Mr. Marshall himself is the second reason that the team needs to take corrective action and change their name.  He was a segregationist at heart and refused to integrate African-Americans into his organization until forced to do so by the Kennedy Administration in 1962, 15 years after the rest of the league.  His choice of the team name was likely not one driven by deep admiration and respect, but by the desire to capitalize on the heritage of his coach at the time (who he even pressured into donning native dress on the sideline during homegames).

The final, and most important, reason the Washington football club needs to change its mascot name and logo is that their usage takes away from the ability of the modern Indian to define their own identities.  They are locked into the image of warrior or savage by the larger society.  Worse still, the name and mascot act to make the 1m living Indians largely invisible to Americans, a  mere relic of a glorified past.

The resulting lack of awareness of the ongoing plight of our fellow countrymen is having serious effects on their already low standard of living.  Congress, unfathomably, has extended the sequestration to the budgets of the reservations, which are experiencing already high levels of  alcoholism, diabetes, and suicide.  

Now that is something that should NEVER have happened.  The natives are one group of people who, without qualification, need (and deserve) the most support the American people can provide.

We can also go out of our way to avoid any disrespectful treatment of the native people, including letting go of a beloved icon.  They certainly lost far more.



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