Native Americans support changing the Washington football team’s name–but this is only one symptom of systematic racism inflicted on them, writes Brian Ward.
THE DEVELOPING momentum around changing the Washington, D.C., football team’s name, including Bob Costas’ courageous comments during halftime of a Sunday Night Football game earlier this month , has been refreshing. Using Natives as mascots, contrary to what team owner Dan Snyder or NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would say, dehumanizes a group of people who have faced attacks on their livelihoods since Christopher Columbus set foot in this hemisphere.
Many will say we have to “move on”–or that this is an issue from “the past.” But Native American communities today are impacted by systematic discrimination today, as in the past–indeed, these communities have been some of the most affected by government cuts, corporate land grabs and, more recently, the government shutdown.
Consider the 16-day-long shutdown of the federal government. Like in most such crises, those who are at the bottom of society get hurt the most.
The Navajo Nation in Arizona is the largest tribe in the U.S. Currently, two-thirds of its budget comes from federal money  because of treaty promises guaranteed to them. According to Mason Big Crow, treasurer for the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, of the tribe’s $80 million budget, $70 million is from federal sources.
If the shutdown had continued, it would have forced many tribes to cut critical programs , such as Tribal Colleges and Head Start programs.
Even before the shutdown, the Obama administration and Congress had little concern for Native peoples, and were proposing more cuts and austerity. The drive to open the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline has left Natives on the sidelines, instead of engaging them. After a half-hearted effort by the State Department to hold “nation to nation” talks in May with Native American leaders representing 10 different tribes, tribal leaders walked out of the meeting in Rapid City, S.D. 
Then, on July 29, the White House held its first “Council on Native American Affairs”–without one single tribal leader being present .
According to the New York Times , Deborah Jackson-Dennison, the superintendent of the Window Rock Unified School District in Navajo Nation, “is in the process of reducing the school budget to about $17 million, from about $24 million, absorbing a cut from sequestration as well as from the local government. ‘It’s like getting two black eyes at once,’ she said. She has let go of 14 employees, and moved the school district down to four buildings from seven.”
Tribes argue that they should not be affected by austerity and sequestration because of treaty promises made by the U.S. government in the past. It’s not just about the federal government giving tribes money, but about a nation-to-nation relationship in which the U.S. keeps its word.
Obviously, we know that the United States has broken just about every treaty that it has ever made with Natives, but the legal documents still gives grounds to fight in court.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
THE ONEIDA nation in upstate New York has been running a terrific campaign around the country to build pressure for changing the name of the Washington football team . Their efforts counter the idea put around by sports journalists and others that the campaign is a bunch of white liberals wanting to be politically correct. As a result, more polls are showing support for the name change .
But how do people who actually live on Indian reservations feel?
One of the most popularly quoted polls is an Annenberg Public Policy Center poll from 2004, which supposedly “found that 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the name.” Never mind the flaws in the poll and that it was taken years ago–you will hear this attitude echoed among Native Americans. In a recent article from Buzzfeed’s Joe Flood , Elaine YellowHorse from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation summed up what many people on reservations think, “There are just so many other things that I need to worry about before that.”
From my time spent on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, I have asked many people this same question. Corbin Conroy, who was born and raised on Pine Ridge, said to me, “I don’t really care. We have bigger issues to deal with on the reservation.”
However, more times than not, when I continue to ask questions, it becomes clear that the term “redskin” is considered a racial slur, and most would favor changing the name of the Washington football team. They just don’t see this as a top priority in their life.
What are their “other priorities”?
Many reservations face unemployment in incomprehensible numbers–rates like 50 to 90 percent. Many houses don’t have running water, and many reservations have housing shortages. In Pine Ridge alone, you may not see homelessness, but an average of 17 people live in a home. When you step on many Indian reservations, you are effectively stepping into the global South, but in the middle of the world’s richest nation.
Racial profiling is commonplace in areas with reservations because police recognize license plates that are from a “certain area” in the state–and a common attitude is, “They must be Indian and are up to no good.”
In other words, it’s understandable that Native American peoples might not see changing the name of a football team thousands of miles away as their top priority when it do anything to change their standards of living. But that doesn’t mean they support the name. As Joe Flood writes:
People, Native American people in particular, in my limited experience, have the ability to ignore all manner of historical insults–like the Medals of Honor still on record for the soldiers who perpetrated the Wounded Knee Massacre, or the faces of U.S. presidents carved into a site the U.S. government took through warfare, forced starvation and treaty violations. That resiliency, though, seems a pretty poor excuse for heaping on much smaller insults–like “Redskins”–and justifying them with “See? They’re cool with it.”
Those advocating for changing the Washington team’s name aren’t doing so so they can feel good. Rather, they are demanding a change in a way of thinking. It’s about no longer dehumanizing a people–and demanding justice for all Native people in this country.
That means not only standing up to change the name in Washington, but standing up against the Keystone XL pipeline. It means demanding full sovereignty for Native Americans, and insisting that the U.S. government keep treaty promises to Natives around the country. It that means fighting the 21st century land grabs happening on Native land and fighting racism against Natives. And, yes, it means recognizing the type of racism that this country is founded on.
So let’s fight to change the name of the Washington football team–as part of
our call for justice for all Natives in this country.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
- The Pine Ridge Story – 6 minute video (kevindhancock.com)
- Snyder says ‘Redskins’ name ‘who we are’ (espn.go.com)
- Producers Introduce “Warriors from the Reservation,” a Multimedia Project Exploring the Experiences of Lakota Veterans (sacbee.com)
- S. D. Native American Tribe Celebrates Columbus Day with Home Invasions (newslo.com)
- Redskins Owner: We Won’t Change Our Name (nation.time.com)
- Prelude to 26 June 1975: Terror on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (Infographic) (lpdoc.blogspot.com)
- Shutting Down the Reservations (las4kd.wordpress.com)
- Government Shutdown Halts Vital Programs on Indian Reservations (firstpeoples.org)
- Foundation awards $1.5 million in grants to Native groups (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Indian School Calls Out Redskins Owner (nation.time.com)
By KRISTI EATON and DIRK LAMMERS 10/31/12 10:29 AM ET EDT reddit stumble fark .
Tina Curl’s daughter, 9-year-old Becky O’Connell, was murdered in 1990.
— Tina Curl was so eager to see her 9-year-old daughter’s killer executed Tuesday night that she couldn’t even take her seat in the witness room.
“I was right up to the glass,” she told The Associated Press after the execution. “I wanted to see it up close.” Donald Moeller, 60, received a lethal injection at the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls on Tuesday night as punishment for the 1990 kidnap, rape and killing of young Becky O’Connell. Curl, who said Moeller’s death brought her relief but not closure, had been steadfast in her wish to watch Moeller die, even raising funds to cover her expenses to make the 1,400-mile trip from her home in New York state to Sioux Falls for the execution. Late Tuesday she said she will never return to South Dakota. Moeller kidnapped Becky from a Sioux Falls convenience store where she’d gone to buy sugar to make lemonade at home. He drove her to a secluded area near the Big Sioux River, then raped and stabbed her. Becky’s naked body was found the next day; investigators said her throat had been slashed. After the execution, Curl showed pictures of Becky at 9 years followed by a framed drawing of how she might have looked had she lived to age 32. Curl said she wanted to know details from Moeller about the crime. She had written to him in prison, but he didn’t respond. She was hoping to get that information Tuesday night in Moeller’s final statement. But when asked if he had any last words, Moeller replied, “No sir,” and then looked up and said, “They’re my fan club?” It’s not clear who Moeller was referring to as his fan club. Moeller then was administered a lethal injection of pentobarbital and took about eight heavy breaths before his breathing stopped and Moeller turned slightly pink. Moeller’s eyes remained open as his skin turned ashen, then purple. The coroner then checked for vital signs, and Moeller was pronounced dead at 10:24 p.m. Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he hoped the execution would bring some peace to Becky’s family and he commended Warden Doug Weber and his staff for their professionalism in planning this state’s second execution in less than a month. “I take no pleasure in his death, but there are those who are so vile that executions are warranted,” Daugaard said in a statement. Moeller initially was convicted in 1992, but the state Supreme Court overturned it, ruling that improper evidence was used at trial. He was again convicted and sentenced to die in 1997. The state Supreme Court affirmed the sentence, and Moeller lost appeals at the state and federal levels. Though he fought his conviction and sentence for years, Moeller said in July he was ready to accept death as the consequence of his actions. He admitted for the first time in court that he killed the girl. But even as Moeller insisted he was ready to die, several motions were filed on his behalf to stop the execution despite his protests. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a pending suit challenging South Dakota’s execution protocol after Moeller insisted he wanted no part of it. Moeller also distanced himself from a motion filed by a woman with loose family ties who argued that his decades in solitary confinement had made him incapable of voluntarily accepting his fate. That motion was dismissed Monday.
Moeller’s execution came just two weeks after the Oct. 15 execution of Eric Robert for killing South Dakota prison guard Ronald “R.J.” Johnson during a failed escape attempt.
Before that, the last execution in South Dakota was in 2007, when Elijah Page died by lethal injection for the murder of Chester Allan Poage, who was abducted and killed in a scheme to burglarize his mother’s home. In 1947, George Sitts was electrocuted for killing two law enforcement officers.
And in 1913, Joseph Rickman was hanged for the murder of a woman and her daughter. They were among 17 inmates executed since 1877, the oldest of which came during the days of the Dakota Territory.
- US executes man for 90s murder of girl (nzherald.co.nz)
- South Dakota executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl in 1990 (foxnews.com)
- SD executes man for murder of 9-year-old girl (cbsnews.com)
- Moeller executed for 1990 rape and murder of 9-year-old Sioux Falls girl (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Mother: Execution brings relief, not closure (seattletimes.com)
- Death row inmate eats last meal of eggs, sausage (rapidcityjournal.com)
- Mother: Execution brings relief, not closure (gazette.com)
- SD executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl (news.yahoo.com)
- South Dakota executes man for rape, death of 9-year-old girl (sott.net)
- South Dakota executes man for murder of girl – Zee News (zeenews.india.com)