Here’s a controversy that may or may not have implications for the Kansas City Chiefs and other sports teams with Indian names and mascots.
Many offended Native Americans have been urging Daniel Snyder, the recalcitrant owner of the team, to honor their heritage and remove that racist name “Redskins” from the team.
Snyder says the name stays and even dismisses a plea from the Leadership of Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union and others to change its name or mascot or take any action that could be deemed harmful or demeaning to native American cultures or people.
A Washington Post poll found that 62 percent agree that the team should change its name while 38 percent said no. Snyder, in a letter to his fans, defended the name as a “badge of honor” and said in his own poll 90 percent of native Americans were not offended by the “Redskins” name.
The Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians and other teams with names like Warriors, Utes and others defend their team images by saying their names honor the heritage of American Indians. (The Chiefs’ fans singing of the national anthem is another matter).
The small Oneida Indian Nation is leading a national campaign to put pressure on fans, politicians, advertisers, even the president, to protest the continuation of the word “Redskin.”
I had the honor of being named the only white spokesperson by the eight Indian tribes of the “National Council for the Flame Spirit Run” in 1987. Unfortunately, the run, beginning at the nation’s four corners and ending at Council Grove, Kan., never materialized.
They were the inspiration for my poem, “Rum, Trinkets and Graves.” Here are some of those empathetic words.
High atop a mountain An Indian warrior rides And pulls his pinto to a halt And gazes at the sky. Where once the air was pure Where the waters would roam Where the salmon and the hawk Knew this was there home All of their land, From one sea to the other By hand or by deceit Was taken from each brother.
Nationwide, Native Americans are small in number (2.9 million) and they rely on allies like coalitions and the conscience of the American people. My conscience tells me – change the name.
I give you President John Adams’ toast: Independence forever.
Jerry Plantz lives in Lee’s Summit. His website is at www.Jerryplantz.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.