A few years ago the Washington NFL football team came to Minnesota to play the Vikings and my tribe, along with several other tribes in Minnesota, organized a march and a rally -- which they called A Rally to Change the Name. The leaders of my tribe and the other tribes involved believe, as I do, that Native American mascots have negative affect on Native Peoples. They help perpetuate a negative stereotype. And that the Washington Redskins is the very worst of all of them, as the word “Redskin” was a word used to describe the bloody scalp of an Indian, killed by US government bounty hunters, for $50 cash. The event in 2015 was well attended, and there was a bunch of positive support in the local and national press.
As a part of that event Red Circle, in partnership with the Coalition Against Racism in Sports & Media, created a video that went viral. The video questions why it’s ok to use the slur “redskin” on broadcast television, but all the other racial epitaphs are forbidden. ESPN.com, Huffpost.com, USATodaySports.com, UKGuardian online, Deadspin.com all carried the video and wrote articles about it. Many conversations were started, and we felt good about the video, the march and the rally.
Now, in October of 2019 Washington came back to Minnesota to play the Vikings again. And my tribe, along with other tribes here, again organized a march and rally. And again Red Circle, in partnership with the Coalition Against Racism in Sports & Media, created a new video.
What’s different this time is that my tribe, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, donated media space -- replacing their local tv ads they had planned for the week prior to the football game with our :30 second Not Your Mascot tv spot.
The rally was a success, more good press, and even a mention in the Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/10/24/protesters-plan-rally-against-redskins-name-before-vikings-game/
What we hope happens when non-Natives watch the video is they pause for a moment and reconsider how that word, “redskin,” has been historically used in this country, and ask yourself if a word that directly references this country’s deliberate genocide of it’s indigenous population should be allowed to serve as a mascot of a professional football team.
I’d like to think we are better than that.