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Editorial: What’s in a name?

Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 11:26 am

The term Redskin was first recorded in the late 17th century and was used to refer to the Algonquian peoples and, more specifically, to the Delaware, who lived in what is now southern New York State and New York City, New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.

Originally, the moniker was benign; it referred not to the natural skin color of the Delaware, but to their use of vermilion face paint and body paint. Over time, though, Redskin grew into a negative term, along with other terms like Red Man and Red Indian.

The professional football team bearing the outdated name has come under repeated fire recently, with many calling for the Washington Redskins to change their name and the federal government denying the team trademark protections for the Redskins name and logo, calling it derogatory to Native Americans.
Monday, State Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax City), Del. Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) and Del. David Ramadan (R-Loudoun) announced the formation of the “Redskins Pride Caucus,” with the goal to support the Redskins’ franchise and oppose “inappropriate” involvement from the U.S. Congress related to the team. The caucus’ membership quickly grew.

The team was originally named the Boston Braves; the name was changed in 1933 to avoid confusion with the baseball team of the same name and, team officials say, to honor then-head coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, who claimed Sioux descent. Some have charged Dietz was an imposter and that much of his story was fabricated.

With a training center now located just a few miles  down I-95, the name scandal hits home, somewhat.

After two drama-filled seasons – one which saw the team win the NFC East only to have their star player go down in an important playoff game and another characterized by a 3-13 record and the firing of the team’s head coach – the team could really do without this controversy.

If their use of Redskin is derogatory, then almost every Hollywood depiction of Native Americans should be taken to task.
Perhaps the best service the Washington Redskins can do Native Americans this season is to simply beat the pants off the Cowboys. Historically, men on horses with guns have committed more real harm to Native Americans than a football team ever has.