Putting an End to
“Name-Calling” in Athletics

Illustration ©Graham Roumieu

Heard on Campus | “Our litigation does not involve money. It involves something like identity theft combined with name-calling. It’s about who gets to say who’s a Native person, who gets to say who’s a sports mascot, and it has a lot to do with we how we’re perceived in general society.

“We’re perceived as cartoon figures, as sports mascots, as something owned by the general public—or as if we [died off years ago] and if we’re alive today, we’ve got to be some sort of anomaly. We’re starting to reclaim our right to represent ourselves ...

“What’s wrong with the name of the Washington [Redskins] football team? It started out in bounty-hunting days. [There were] various proclamations about bounties for dead Indians: 80 cents for men, 40 cents for women and children ... It became a storage and transportation problem, and they decided to accept bloody ‘redskins’ in lieu of Indian bodies and bloody red scalps for Indian heads.

“But you don’t even have to know that to know [the name Redskins] is not an honorific. In a nutshell, we say to the Washington football team that we’re offended. They say, ‘No, you’re not. You’re honored.’ We say, ‘No we’re not. We’re offended.’ They say, ‘Shut up’” …

“Even if we lose this lawsuit, I have kids and this is going to be changed [one day]. There were over 3,000 Native references in American athletic programs, and today there are just over 1,000 left … They are going the way of lawn jockeys, and pretty soon people will look at them in museums and in history books, and people will say, ‘What were they thinking?’’’

—From a talk at the Penn Museum given by Suzan Shown Harjo, president of The Morning Star Institute and lead plaintiff in Harjo et al v. Pro Football, Inc. The lawsuit challenges the team name of the Washington Redskins. Harjo’s November 18 visit was part of the Provost’s Interdisciplinary Seminar Series, “Dialogues Across Indian Country,” which focuses on Native American issues.

©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette
Last modified 01/05/05

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