November is set aside to observe Native American History, and speaking as a lifelong and ardent fan of the local professional football team, it is time to add one more voice to the chorus of those who believe it to be high time to change the name. Once before, the owner-and-founder of this franchise engaged […]
November is set aside to observe Native American History, and speaking as a lifelong and ardent fan of the local professional football team, it is time to add one more voice to the chorus of those who believe it to be high time to change the name.
Once before, the owner-and-founder of this franchise engaged in the practice of exhibiting utter indifference for furnishing equal opportunity to people of color. Likely in an effort to avoid a civil rights lawsuit, the league compelled George Preston Marshall to desegregate his team despite his long held tradition and beliefs. It was the right thing to do.
Many would welcome a similar action today with regard to a team name that is no less dehumanizing than the hiring practices of decades ago.
Consider the name change a first step to address the more than 500 broken treaties that litter our history. How do we honor Native Americans by reducing their cultural heritage to the archaic ethnic stereotypes represented by our corporate logos? What reverence is expressed by reducing those proud and vibrant peoples to caricatures and mascots?
Historically, the indigenous peoples of North America suffered a terrible tragedy when Europeans starting landing on these shores. The invaders exploited modest scientific advantages in chemistry and metallurgy to produce weaponry that facilitated the conquest and usurpation of two continents. Explorers immediately started planting flags and claiming territories in the name of their respective monarchs.
The Hernando De Soto expedition rode through what is now called Florida, Georgia & Louisiana massacring entire villages. The Jesuit priest accompanying the expedition described De Soto in his journals as Satan incarnate. The accounts are horrifying.
Ultimately, however, the pathogens in the crew’s blood did the most damage. Eight in every ten adults of the 12 to 20 million citizens of the 500 Nations would fall to smallpox, measles and chicken pox before the pilgrims arrived in New England decades later. During the epidemic that followed, scarcely sufficient survivors remained to bury the dead.
Our own nation’s treatment of the surviving descendants fails to withstand close scrutiny on the moral plane. The incidents, too numerous to detail here, betray our collective intent: the Trail of Tears, the massacre at Wounded Knee, internment camps and reservations, the first effort at germ warfare at Fort Pitt, the wanton extermination of buffalo from the plains. Post-revolutionary America, with its lofty constitutional language intact, rejected incorporation of the native peoples and chose eradication instead.
Achieving a critical mass for change will require discipline. All those who believe it time for a re-boot of the franchise will need to echo the words of the world weary Hinmatóowyalahtq’it, known to Europeans as Chief Joseph, and relay the message to the team ownership that as long as the name offends anyone, we will watch no more, forever.