Native Leaders Criticize Washington Post’s ‘Redskins’ Poll
By SIMON MOYASMITH
Several Native leaders and activists have called a Washington Post report claiming that most Native Americans do not find the name of the Washington Redskins NFL franchise offensive “flawed” and otherwise uninformed. On May 19, the Post reported that a poll of 504 “ordinary Indians” found that “more than 7 in 10 said they did not feel the word ‘Redskin’ was disrespectful” and that 80 percent “said they would not be offended if a non-native called them that name.” However, critics are pointing out that self-identification of Native status may be based on rumor or family lore. Last June, the Pew Research Center found that half of all adults in the U.S. who claim to be multiracial self-identify as both white and American Indian.
“The self-identification standard is flawed,” the activist and leader Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee) told ICTMN. “The Post is substituting its ill-informed judgment for the lifelong experience and sound judgment of actual Native peoples who are in positions of trust and who reflect the will of Native people they represent.” Other critics say the study does not account for research that has found that words like “redskin” and “savage” harm the mental well being of Native American youth. Moreover, they note, various dictionaries define “redskin” as “disparaging” and “offensive.” “Social science research and first-hand experience has told us that this kind of denigration has both visible and unseen consequences for Native Americans in this country,” wrote Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians National Director Jackie Pata, leaders of Change the Mascot, in a joint statement.