Washington team now the Commanders: A Native American journalists’ take

I want to congratulate you on your new name, but don’t claim a legacy that never existed.

Like most Americans or other football fans out in this world, you have perhaps long pondered about the possibilities of the Washington Football team that has essentially remained nameless for the past near year and a half.

I took a quick look on social media Wednesday morning and shortly found the Commanders new Twitter video that showcased the history of its previous namesake, the Washington Redskins.

I hate the name, as well as what it stands for. The history behind the name is a horrible one, redskin meaning the name for a scalp of a Native man, woman or child’s head in the quest of settler colonial Manifest Destiny.

As I watched the video announcement, I winced with a residual pain, realizing that though the name was changed — for which I am extremely appreciative — I noticed Washington couldn’t help but jab the stick into my proverbial gut once more.

As a Native-looking young man walks into the frame, with a covered sweatshirt that has the word “Redskins” covered by his jacket, a series of images plays with reference after reference to the Native logo. The horrible caricature of my culture. 

Without a doubt, I am certain there are a significant number of people who might say to my words, “My God, aren’t you Native people ever satisfied.? We changed the *&%# name!”

Such words are understandable. But the pain I feel is the pain I feel. In 1932, when the world was celebrating a new football team, the Boston Braves, who would eventually become the Redskins in 1933 and Washington Redskins in 1937, Native children were still being forced into Residential schools, all their hair cut short, and beaten if they spoke their own languages.

My own grandmother was one of these children.

And Lone Star Dietz, the “Native” man that the Redskins say that they got their influence from? The “Native” first coach of the Redskins? He wasn’t Native at all, he was a German man who lied to play at Carlisle alongside the likes of Jim Thorpe.

Dietz, who was a draft dodger that took on the identity of a Native war veteran to collect his military pension, ended up doing jail time. He even wrote letters home to the Native family, lying that their beloved brother and son was still alive. 

(Stay tuned for a more in-depth story to come)

So for all of the Washington team’s exploiting of Native culture, I am exceptionally glad of the new name for many reasons.

I am glad because I would imagine some of the players of color over the years likely felt a bit uncomfortable with the name, or the cartoon image of a Native. Commanders are something that you don’t need to hide from.

I am glad because there is one less hashtag to see when I hit social media on Sunday. Instead of HTTR (Hail to the Redskins) which gave me a twinge every time I saw it, I now can see #TakeCommand or HTTC.

I am glad I get to see (a lot less) the horrible cartoon image of my cultural heritage.

Congratulations to the team, the players and to all who work so hard to be professional.

I look forward to the day when no Native mascots exist any longer. 

One thought on “Washington team now the Commanders: A Native American journalists’ take

  1. People who have drank the kool-aid regarding the Commanders are getting this article! I have little hope that they will understand why this team is spitting on an honorable People I will continue trying to get truth out there.

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