A protest against the Washington NFL team's racist mascot. Photo: Fibonacci Blue

Tim Giago: Sorry but the R-Word does not honor Native Americans

Notes from Indian Country
The N-Word and the R-Word are synonyms
By Tim Giago (Nanwica Kciji – Stands Up For Them)

When the early settlers needed extra cash they would say, “Let’s go out and kill some Redskins and collect the bounty on them.” They didn’t have to take the entire body to the Bounty Office to collect the money. They took scalps, ears and other body parts as evidence. The bounty for babies and children was less than for full-grown men and women.

There is too much evidence of this horrific program by the federal and state governments to deny it ever happened although historical documents, posters, and advertisements in the newspapers of the day existed for so many years before they became an embarrassment and began to disappear. Selling “Redskins” for bounty is not fake news, but a large portion of American history that has been whitewashed and buried.

The definition of "Redskin" in Wikipedia is a slang term referring to Native Americans in the United States. In modern dictionaries of American English it is labeled "usually offensive", "disparaging", "insulting", or "taboo". To most Lakota it is so offensive that we find it comparable to the N-Word, a word that is now so distasteful that prominent actors and sportscasters have lost their jobs for uttering it.

When the Washington R-Words claimed Reuben Foster off waivers after the San Francisco 49ers released the linebacker following a domestic violence arrest the news was all over radio, television and in the local newspapers. REDSKINS, REDSKINS, REDSKINS, was bandied about with total disregard and the utter lack of respect it showed to the very large Native American population right here, deep in the heart of Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Territory. The largest daily newspaper in Western South Dakota, a newspaper circulated on the Indian reservations, had the word REDSKINS, in the headlines on its sports page.

The Oprah Winfrey Show - Racism in 1992

It was ironic and hurtful to see television talking heads including African Americans like Gayle King, bandying the name REDSKINS about on the CBS Morning Show she co-hosts. What makes it even more shameful is the fact that her best friend Oprah Winfrey was the first national TV personality to address the R-Word issue when she had Suzanne Harjo, Michael Haney and me on her show in 1991. Didn’t Gayle see that show? Would Gayle be so bold as to use the N-Word so flippantly? Absolutely not.

To all of the local media, and national media, the word REDSKINS does not honor Native Americans. In fact it is a painful reminder of the hate, prejudice and injustice heaped upon us since that first boat touched our shores. From the tip of South America to the top of Canada, the indigenous people have perished at the hands of the new comers even to the point that bounties were put on the heads of our ancestors in order to bring about a faster means of extermination.

The word REDSKIN reminds all Native Americans of everything we lost that was dear to us. It reminds us of the heartless slaughter that nearly terminated a race of people in the names of greed and stupidity.

The N-Word does not honor African Americans, but is instead a reminder of the days when their ancestors were chattel to be sold on the open market like cattle. The trees in some cities in Mississippi were lined with the bodies of dead N-Words hanging there because they dared try to vote.

Tim Giago. Photo courtesy Native Sun News Today

Yes, America has a dark, dark history of the cruelty it inflicted upon those considered to be inferior. And it is time that all Native Americans, including the Seminole Nation that allowed its proud name to be cut in half by the football fanatics at the Florida State University so that it was reduced to the “Noles” because by allowing those fans to dishonor your name you are allowing them to dishonor all Native Americans.

Native Americans are not mascots for football, baseball or hockey teams. We are human beings that deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Never mind that reporters can go out and find Native Americans who do not mind being treated as mascots. As Suzanne Harjo said on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1991, “There were even happy campers on the plantations.”

When fans can take pigs, paint them red and put feathers on their heads, and when white fans can put ceremonial bonnets on their heads, paint their faces and make disgusting war whoops, it is time to examine this racist phenomenon for what it is.

The R-Word is akin to the N-Word and every time a sports announcer, or talking head uses it, and every time a newspaper emblazons it as a headline, they are demeaning all Native Americans, even those who say they don’t mind.

It is high time for America to start treating the people they tried to eradicate as a race with respect and dropping the use of the R-Word is a small beginning.

Contact Tim Giago at najournalist1@gmail.com

Copyright permission Native Sun News Today

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