Opinion | Sports

Opinion: Teams with Indian mascots all play on stolen tribal land






A view of FedEx Field in Maryland. Photo from Bernard Gagnon on Wikipedia

History professor Claudio Saunt notes that FedEx Field, the home of the Washington NFL team, is built on land stolen from the Piscataway people:
Of all Indian-themed sports teams, the Washington NFL franchise has come under the heaviest criticism, and has asserted most vociferously that its name honors Native Americans. The team’s official history page includes a description of Darrell Green’s goal-line stop in the 1987 NFC Championship Game and a feature on the franchise’s 80 greatest players but not a word about the native peoples who lived where the team plays today.

The website could describe the epidemic disease, dispossession, dispersal, and survival of Maryland’s Piscataway people. In 1623, Virginia colonists invaded Piscataway country and, in the words of the colony’s governor, “putt many to the swoorde,” despite the Indians’ best efforts to appease the newcomers. A generation later, the Piscataway were forced onto reservations and subjected to colonial law. Disease and alcoholism became widespread, and at least a few individuals were forced into slavery to toil on one of the Chesapeake’s many tobacco plantations. In 1701, the surviving Piscataway abandoned the region altogether, settling on a reservation in Pennsylvania. Yet, a core identity persisted among Piscataway families, and in 2012, the state of Maryland formally recognized two Piscataway bands. Their history, like that of other indigenous Americans, is complex and belies the stereotyped, featureless warrior that appears on the Washington team’s helmets.

Get the Story:
Claudio Saint: This Land Is Their Land
 (Slate 7/6)

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