Native Sun News Editorial: No honor in being called 'Redskin'

The following is the opinion of the Native Sun News Editorial Board. All content © Native Sun News.

National Congress of American Indians President Brian Cladoosby sports a "Rethink" t-shirt. Photo from NCAI

It is not an honor to be called a ‘Redskin’
By Native Sun News Editorial Board

It was in 1982, 33 years ago, that a column appearing in the Lakota Times by Editor Tim Giago first addressed the issue of using American Indians as mascots for America’s fun and games.

Nine years later in 1991 a column by Giago admonishing America for allowing a professional football team to use the color of a people’s skin, the Washington Redskins, as a mascot was published in the national magazine Newsweek.

A torrent of hate mail flooded the mailroom of the Lakota Times and Giago was called every filthy name in the English language by the diehard fans of the Washington Redskins.

Giago went on to join Charlene Teters at the University of Illinois in an effort to prevent that university from using the mascot they called Chief Illiniwek, usually a white student dressed in a full Indian regalia including ceremonial bonnet who danced and pranced around the football field or basketball court during Illinois sporting events. Their efforts were successful and Chief Illiniwek was removed as a mascot for the University.

Speaking at Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Florida several years ago to a nearly all-Black student body, Giago explained his objections to the use of the name “Redskins.” He said, “At a recent Washington Redskins game a group of fans wearing feathers and other bits of Indian attire, released a pig at halftime that was painted red with feathers attached to its head. They laughed and danced as they chased the pig around the football field. Now imagine if they had taken that same pig, painted it black and placed an Afro-wig on its head: Would you consider that as an act honoring African Americans?”

The auditorium erupted with an ear shattering, NO!

“Then why is it so hard to understand why most Native Americans object to the name “Redskin” or of being used as mascots,” he asked?

He said there is another word used quite liberally that Native American women find objectionable and that word is squaw. He said, “I dare anyone in this room to go up to an Indian woman and say “Hello, squaw” or to go up to any Indian man and say “Hello Redskin.”

Giago’s newspaper Indian Country Today fought long and hard to change the name of Squaw Peak in Phoenix and after a prolonged battle with the city officials the name was changed to honor the first Native American woman killed in combat in Iraq. The peak is now called Piestewa Peak. However, the Hilton Hotel in Phoenix continues to call itself Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak. Giago said he will leave that battle to another Indian newspaper.

One time as Giago was being introduced as the graduation speaker at Crazy Horse High School in Wanbli, the man introducing him walked up to the microphone wearing a “Redskin” jacket. When he reached the mike he stopped, looked at Giago, and removed the jacket and laid it on the floor. He said, “Out of respect for Mr. Giago I will not wear this coat.” What a gallant gesture.

It has been a long battle against the insulting ways some schools have dishonored the American Indians with the painted faced, tomahawks and Hollywood war chants and the one school that leads the pack is the Florida State Seminoles. They even call themselves the “Noles” having cut the proud Seminole name in half.

The latest ruling against the use of the Redskin mascot by a federal judge could be the last nail in the coffin of the Washington Redskins. We hope the rest of America takes note and stops honoring Indians by making them into ridiculous mascots.

(The Editorial Board of the Native Sun News can be reached at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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