YUMA, ARIZONA — On Wednesday, July 16, 2014 representatives from Washington Redsk*ns owner Dan Snyder’s foundation Original Americans Foundation met with the Fort Yuma Quechan (Kwatsan) Tribe to offer them a blank check to build a memorial skate park. They even brought a park designer with them with renderings of the skate park in burgundy and gold.
Tribal representatives refused the offer.
Tribal member Kenrick Escalanti, whose organization Kwatsan Media, Inc. is raising $250,000 to build The Quechan Memorial Skatepark was invited to present the funding needs for the project which seeks to help fight Native youth suicide said:
“We say, no. There are no questions about this. We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in Native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it.”
Tribal members were repeatedly assured that acceptance of the money would not imply support for the Redsk*ns name for which the Washington DC NFL franchise had its trademarks cancelled by by the US Patent and Trademark Office on June 18, 2014.
In the meeting, OAF representatives OAF Executive Director Gary Edwards and OAF Director Karl Schreiber claimed they have 147 projects lined up across the country and 40+ in partnership with tribes. He listed amongst OAF supporters the Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and claimed they had a number of projects being funded there. This despite of a Navajo Nation Council bill adopted on April 10, 2014 opposing the use of the name Redsk*ns. They also referenced the tractor they helped purchase that was mocked on the tv show The Colbert Report by host Stephen Colbert.
They denied that any of these tribes were required to support the name, a dictionary-defined slur that newspapers like The Oregonian (since 1992) and most recently, The Seattle Times refuse to print instead using the descriptor the “Washington DC team.” Also, on June 14, 2014 the United Churches of Christ, Central Atlantic Conference passed a resolution calling for a boycott of the Washington Redsk*ns by their 40,000 members.
Mr. Edwards, who claims Cherokee heritage repeatedly referred to himself proudly as a Redsk*n and claimed that, “The opposition is creating the old assimilation policy now being enacted today.” Escalanti said that Edwards appeared to believe that opposition to the slur is purely from White Liberals, despite the persistent opposition of organizations like the National Congress of American Indians which represents the majority of tribal members in the United States and first issued a resolution opposing the name in 1969. And the Native plaintiffs that filed the successful Trademark including lead plaintiff Amanda Blackhorse (Navajo). This trademark case was organized by Suzan Shown Harjo (Muskogee Creek) long-time advocate for changing the name who filed the first trademark case in 1992.
Edwards final thoughts at the meeting on the threat of white people to the Redsk*ns moniker, “we [Native Americans] need to get stronger because if we don’t THEY will annihilate us! That is my sincere heartfelt belief.” He appears to feel that only by being a mascot for a $1.8 billion team can Native Americans continue to exist in this country.
Edwards also claimed that his employer Dan Snyder is not concerned about calls to change the name because he “is a billionaire over again and the franchise is not hurting for money and has no fear in them losing the name.” This despite concerns that the loss of the trademark for the Redsk*ns may cost NFL owners money as the teams pool their income from the sale of trademarked products.
The Native members of Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry and their allies call upon Washington Redsk*ns owner Dan Snyder and his OAF staff to stop using the very real needs of our people as a way to buy cover for the continued use of a slur for an NFL franchise in our nation’s capital. The research as to the harm Native Mascots do to Native Youth’s self-esteem is well-documented in the American Psychological Association Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots. The APA notes that Native Mascots, ”The symbols, images and mascots teach non-Indian children that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior and perpetuate inaccurate misconceptions about American Indian culture.” Research by Dr. Stephanie Fryberg found that exposure to Native mascots, even by Native Americans who claim to be fine with them, reduced their self-esteem and belief in their ability to achieve goals in their lives.
Native youth represent the most vulnerable population in the population with suicide rates 2.5 time that of any other ethnic group in the United States. The organization disagrees with Mr. Edwards and the management of the Washington NFL team that American Indian young children who need to “get stronger,” rather EONM suggests that the National Football League get stronger and request the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell unless he seeks the immediate change of the DC team nickname as scare tactics of annihilation by representatives of the NFL towards Native Americans is morally abhorrent. They are not a group that should have to bear the burden of Native Mascotry for entertainment and profit.
Donations to help make the skate park a reality for Native youth at Ft. Yuma can be made at the website www.quechanskate.com and Kenrick Escalanti can be reached at 928-246-0683 and at firstname.lastname@example.org for interviews. Let’s show Dan Snyder and the Redsk*ns organization that natives are quite capable of supporting and helping our own people without the use of their money.