Opinion: Washington team's logo dehumanizes Indian people

In the 1930d, the U.S. Postal Service produced a stamp that featured Hollow Horn Bear but identified him only as an "American Indian" unlike other U.S. leaders who identified by name. Image from Smithsonian National Postal Museum

Anthropologist Richard Handler and doctoral candidate Laura Goldblatt explain why Washington NFL team's logo perpetuates a stereotype of Indian people:
Over the past two years, we have studied images of Native Americans as represented in a major form of American public art: stamps issued by the United States Post Office. Though the debate about the name of Washington’s NFL franchise has paid little attention to the logo that accompanies the name, our research has yielded useful insights into such images.

The team’s logo shows a dark-skinned Indian in profile, his braided hair adorned with feathers, set inside a circle that also bears two feathers. The figure is recognizable as a Native American by what he wears and the style of his hair, and by his physical attributes and demeanor. His “Indianness” is, in a word, stereotypical. And such a stereotype has a long history, as our research shows.

In early uses of Native Americans as representatives of the United States, the Post Office figured Indians not as individuals but as types. This practice was unique to images of Native Americans: the founding fathers and military heroes featured on early stamps were known by name to the public. The stamps were issued in sets featuring several persons, further emphasizing the individuality of each: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, for example, could be seen to be different people.

Contrast those stamp sets, featuring images of founding fathers, to a depiction of a “savage” Native American submitted by an unknown artist in the early 1860s to the Post Office. The “essay”—or stamp mock up—features a fiercely rendered Native American, which is strikingly similar to the Washington logo. His grim expression as well as his hair and earrings suggest that he possesses the attributes supporters of the “Redskins” name say the term implies—courage, pride, and a fighting spirit.

Get the Story:
Richard Handler & Laura Goldblatt: Stamping Out Ugly Stereotypes: How the Postal Service Perpetuates Racism (Indian Country Today 10/11)

Join the Conversation

Related Stories
Deadspin: Questionable heritage of Washington NFL team's fan (10/07)
Minneapolis examines whether it can outlaw R-word at stadium (10/07)
DaShanne Stokes: Anti-Indian racism is everywhere in America (10/6)
Peter d'Errico: Washington NFL team name rooted in colonialism (10/6)
Opinion: FCC can't block broadcast of R-word on public airwaves (10/3)
Gyasi Ross: Why African Americans should care about mascots (10/2)
FCC will consider petition to outlaw R-word on public airwaves (10/1)
Migizi Pensoneau: Behind the scenes at a Washington NFL game (9/29)
Column: Washington team should be worried about FCC petition (9/29)
Chelsey Luger: Washington NFL team doesn't own our identity (9/25)
Osage Nation to avoid FedEx due to association with NFL team (9/24)
DC Council considers bill to ban race-based mascots at schools (9/24)
Opinion: Town sends wrong message with street after R-word (9/24)
Activists ask judge to dismiss Washington NFL team's lawsuit (9/23)
Peter d'Errico: Video uses humor to battle racist NFL mascot (9/22)
Opinion: Racist sports mascots preserve 'imaginary' Indians (9/22)
Norbert Hill: It's past time to drop the Washington NFL mascot (9/18)
Peter d'Errico: Connecting mascots to racism and termination (9/18)
Opinion: Eliminating NFL team's racist mascot is just the start (9/18)
Student newspaper punished over refusal to print the R-word (9/18)
Sen. Cantwell to introduce bill to end NFL's tax-exempt status (9/16)
Bruce Anderson: Washington team name preserves stereotypes (9/15)
Column: DC-area Native people oppose NFL team's racist mascot (9/15)
Coalition asks broadcasters to avoid Washington NFL team's name (09/04)
Editorial: It's time to sack Washington NFL team's offensive name (09/04)