Native American leaders say fight to change Washington Redskins mascot continues

May 31, 2016

A recent poll from the Washington Post found that 90 percent of 504 Native Americans whom were surveyed are not bothered by the use of the term redskin, but that is not stopping an effort to change the Washington NFL team's name.

An effort led by the Oneida Indian Nation to pressure the team to change its mascot is now the subject of scrutiny from many who say the poll's findings deflate their argument. Yet several Native American leaders at the helm of the campaign say this changes nothing. Ray Halbritter, who represents the Oneida Indian Nation, reiterated that redskin is defined in the dictionary as a racial slur.

"There is no place in our modern, respectful society for this outdated, hateful slur," Halbritter said.

They criticized the poll, saying it was misguided and an attempt to silence the advocates of the change the mascot movement. Even so, Washington, D.C., Councilmember David Grosso said the poll's results do not take away from their core message.

"Sometimes in a democracy, the majority doesn't necessarily speak for everybody," Grosso said. "If one person is offended, that's enough and we should change the name based on that and that alone."

The group insisted that their campaign would continue, but they were vague on where they head from here.

"Well, I'm not - I guess I will just start by saying that I'm not sure that we want to tell you all of our plans, just like anybody else wouldn't probably," said Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. "But, I do want to say that we are committed to continuing and that's the most important piece. Whether we do it tribe by tribe, state by state, school by school - we do have a plan."

The group mentioned a recent decision by California lawmakers to ban the use of redskins in public school teams as a sign of success. And, they said that many lawmakers, such as Rep. John Katko, (R-Camillus), have taken their side in the debate with the Washington Redskins' owner.