Redskin (slang)

Redskin (slang)

"Redskin" is a racial descriptor for Native Americans and one of the color metaphors for race used in North America and Europe since European colonization of America.

Historic use

The term was used throughout the English-speaking world (and in equivalent transliterations in Europe) throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a common term of reference for indigenous Americans.The term was once in common use, as evidenced in Western movies, but is now largely considered a pejorative and is seldom used publicly (aside from the football team - see below). As with any term perceived to be discriminatory, different individuals may hold differing opinions of the term's appropriateness.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the term "redskin" came from the reddish skin color of some Native Americans, as in the terms "red Indian" and "red man", and the OED cites instances of its usage in English dating back to the 17th century (and cites a use of "red" in reference to skin color from 1587). Other origins suggested for this term include the use of natural red paints by Native peoples and the bloody skins of Native people bought and sold by bounty and scalp hunters.

Current use

The name "Redskins" is currently used for a NFL football team. The team was founded in 1932 and was originally known as the Boston Braves, for their landlords, the baseball team called the Boston Braves. In 1933 the name was changed to the synonymous "Boston Redskins" when they left Braves Field for Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox. Some accounts state that the name "Redskins" was chosen to honor the team's coach, William "Lone Star" Dietz, who began coaching in 1933, and whose mother was allegedly Sioux. In 1937 the team moved to Washington, D.C. and became the Washington Redskins, joining Capitol Hill as the second football team of Washington, D.C.. [cite news|url=|title=Reclaiming James One Star|date=2004-07-20|author=Linda Waggoner|publisher="Indian Country Today"]

In recent years the name has become controversial, with some Native American groups and their supporters arguing that since they view the word "redskin" as an offensive slur that it is inappropriate for a NFL team to continue to use it, regardless of whether any offense is intended. In contrast to amateur teams governed by the NCAA or other organizations, which can level sanctions against member schools, the professional Washington Redskins franchise and nickname are subject only to the other clubs in the NFL and, presumably, approval or disapproval as expressed through ticket and merchandise receipts, or lack thereof, from the public. As there has apparently been no adverse market reaction, there has been little or no incentive to change the name.

An attempt to revoke the trademark registration of the Washington Redskins team name failed when an initial revokation of the trademark was reversed the 2005 court case of Pro-Football, Inc. v. Harjo.

In 1997 Jill Cadreau, a Milford High School student, became a young activist for Native American rights when she demanded the word "Redskins" stop being used as the name for the school's mascot and sports teams. Jill and much of the American Indian community thought the word carried a negative connotation and attempted to justify racism that still existed in the school. After long meetings with the Milford School Board and much support from the local American Indian community, the Huron Valley Board of Education ruled in favor of a Native American victory with a 6-0 vote in 1997. Jill was a leader for the campaign that forced her high school to eliminate all references to American Indians in the names and images of school mascots.

Another non-NFL controversy over the term "redskin" took place at James S. Rickards High School in 2000, when the mascot had to be changed from Rickards Redskins to Rickards Raiders due to perceived racial implications of the word.

In 2001, under threats from the Native American Bar Association, Consolidated School District 158 in Huntley, Illinois had to ban use of the Redskin slogan from its high school, changing to the Huntley Red Raiders.

In California, a bill, presented by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, to ban the use of the name Redskins as a public school mascot was vetoed more than once. There were many supporters against the bill, including students from schools with the Redskin mascot, most prominently Tulare Union High School in Tulare, and Chowchilla Union High School in Chowchilla, as well as members of the Tachi-Yokut tribe who deemed the fact that schools had Redskin as a mascot incited a sense of pride.

In April 2001 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools, stating, "These references, whether mascots and their performances, logos, or names, are disrespectful and offensive to American Indians and others and are particularly inappropriate and insensitive in light of the long history of forced assimilation that American Indian people have endured in this country." The commission declared that "the stereotyping of any racial, ethnic, religious or other group, when promoted by our public educational institutions, teaches all students that stereotyping of minority groups is acceptable, which is a dangerous lesson in a diverse society," and noted that "false portrayals encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people." [ [ Statement of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on the Use of Native American Images and Nicknames as Sports Symbols] ] The American Counseling Association adopted a resolution December 2, 2001 opposing the use of stereotypical Native American images as sports symbols and mascots. [ [ Opposition to Use of Stereotypical Native American Images as Sports Symbols and Mascots] ] The American Psychological Association adopted a Resolution August 21, 2005, recommending the immediate retirement of American Indian mascots, symbols, images, and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams, and organizations. The APA stated that "racism and racial discrimination are attitudes and behavior that are learned and that threaten human development" and resolved to "denounce racism in all its forms, and take proactive steps to prevent the occurrence of intolerant or racist acts." [ [ APA Resolution Recommending the Immediate Retirement of American Indian Mascots] ]

Alternative etymology

There is another concept for where the term "redskin" came from;Tina Holder, whose origins are Blackfoot, Cherokee and Choctaw, is a longtime opponent of the "Redskins" name. She offers the following description:


ee also

* List of ethnic slurs
* Native American mascot controversy

External links

* [ "I am a Red-Skin": The Adoption of a Native American Expression (1769–1826)] (Ives Goddard, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution)
* [ Redskins Are Denied Trademarks, Washington Post, April 3, 1999]
*cite news|url=|title=Dirty Word Games|author=Suzan Shown Harjo|publisher="Indian Country Today"|date=2005-06-17
* [ Redskin: Linguistic Controversy, Ryan M. Dinkgrave, February 4, 2004]

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