Native groups have protesting Washington NFL team’s name for decades
‘Redskins’ Team mascot hurtful reminder of past suffering of Native Americans
GENEVA – In a news release issued from Geneva, Switzerland, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, James Anaya, today called on the owners of the Washington Redskins Football team, to consider “the hurtful reminder that the term ‘redskins’ represents of the long history of mistreatment of Native American people in the United States.”
“While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue,” the human rights expert said, “I urge the team owners to consider that the term ‘redskin’ for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession, and that it is understood to be a pejorative and disparaging term that fails to respect and honor the historical and cultural legacy of the Native Americans in the US.”
The National Congress of American Indians, the oldest national American Indian organization in the United States, was quick to applaud Mr. Anaya’s statement.
“The United Nations is the latest to dispel the absurd claim by Washington’s football team and its owner Dan Snyder that the term ‘redskins’ honors Native Americans,” Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata stated in the news release.
“This word is widely recognized throughout the globe as a racial slur. If the NFL wants to be a global brand that contributes to the positive image of the United States across the world, it needs to stop promoting this slur and change the name.”
In a 2012 report on the situation of indigenous peoples in the US, the Special Rapporteur likewise stressed that “the use of stereotypes obscures understanding of the reality of Native Americans today and instead help to keep alive racially discriminatory attitudes.”
In that report, he noted that within the US many stereotypes still portray Native Americans as relics of the past, perpetuated by the use of Indian names by professional and other high-profile sports teams, caricatures in the popular media and even mainstream education on history and social studies.
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” Mr. Anya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The rights expert further recalled that States must take measures to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.
“Private actors also have responsibilities independently of the States’ obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Mr. Anaya said. “These responsibilities have been outlined most comprehensively in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2011.”
Editor’s Note: Due to the offensive nature of name of the Washington NFL team, tt is the policy of the Native News Online not to use the name in print. However, since the offensive word was used in quotes, this publication is making an exception in this article.