The R-word and Racist Native American Sports Team Logos

Topics: Native Americans in the United States, Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Native American mascot controversy Pages: 12 (3460 words) Published: May 13, 2014
The R-word and Racist Native American Sports Team Logos

Racial epithets have long existed and plagued our society, Native Americans throughout the country consider the R-word a racial, derogatory slur along the same lines of other hurtful, slanderous, and offensive ethnic insults including the N-word among African-Americans, the K-word for the Jewish and the W-word amongst Latinos. Above all, the portrayal of stereotypical Indian images is common in American popular culture (i.e. Jeep Cherokee, Land O’Lakes butter). Moreover, the use of Indian logos or mascots at both the professional and high school level in sports has become increasingly controversial. Thus, the removal of Native American mascots from sports teams is necessary to fight the injustice of the negative connotations and stereotypes that are typical in the depiction of Indians. Our society must become aware of how very racist the word “redskin” is and how very derogatory the portrayal of the Native American is in so many commercial and sporting events.

Interestingly, Merriam-Webster’s definition defines “Redskin” as a very offensive slang used as a disparaging term for a Native American and should be avoided. The fact that many Americans are not aware of the definition of the term “redskin” or are blind to see into believing that this term means strong, brave, and courageous gives them a false sense of understanding to the true testament of the word “redskin” that is heavily misunderstood and overlooked in today’s society. First, by considering the term “Redskin” has for centuries been used to belittle and humiliate an entire people. The meaning originated in colonial times when traders and local government paid for skins. There was a certain price paid for various animal skins. On that list was the term “Red-skin,” which referred to bloody scalps of American Indians resulting from a Native American crossing the path of a bounty hunter. Most of the affected tribes were Penobscots, Passamaquoddy, Wampanoag, Mashpee Wampanoag and others along the New England coastal line. The reason they were paid for these scalps, the colonists were working to remove the American Indian presence and take over their land. Furthermore, the original name was a European one used to describe Algonquins who painted their face with bright red ocher and bloodroot, consequently making their face red with war paint. In addition, red is the most common color used by Native Americans in painting their skin. According to Dress Clothing of the Plains Indians by Ronal P. Koch, “Red is generally accepted as being one of the colors most easily available to and most used by Indians for decorative and ceremonial purposes.”

In recent developments, the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013 (H.R. 1278) introduced by U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega of the Territory of American Samoa states that this bill would require cancellation of existing trademark registrations for trademarks using the term “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. It would also deny registration for new trademarks so using the term “redskin” would be deemed improper, the bill has begun to pick up steam and has garnered nation wide support through the backings of Native Americans and Non-Native American organizations in advocating an end to the use of the term “redskin” which constitutes a racial slur and is disparaging, derogatory, demeaning, and offensive to Native Americans. According to the United States House of Representative’s website, documented in a letter to Members of Congress, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) which is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving tribal governments and communities recently stated:

This legislation will accomplish what Native American people, nations, and organizations have tried to do in the courts for almost twenty years –...

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Washington, d.c.—members of congress urge snyder and the national football league to change the washington team’s name. (2013, May 28). Retrieved from
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Koch, Ronald P. Dress Clothing of the Plains Indians. University of Oklahoma Press, 1977. Examination of the design and construction of Plains Indian formal ...
Hopkins, Ruth. "Indian Country Today Media Network."Tribalism as Pop Culture Phenomenon and the Perpetuation of Offensive American Indian Stereotypes. N.p., 19 Aug 2011. Web. 14 Jul 2013. .
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