This post originally appeared as a comment by Native American Redskins fan, Mark One Wolf to a blog post, Reclaim “Redskin,” An Indian expression, not a slur. Hog Heaven republishes One Wolf’s comment here with his permission.
An online story popped on my desktop a few days ago. As I have many things to do, I took my time to read it. I see this post was written a while back (Nov. 2013), but I decided to take the time to reply.
Perhaps I can give you a more appropriate point of view concerning the name Redskins. Obviously, there is no consensus across the board. I can only speak for myself with the assurance that many others feel as I do.
I am Chinene N’de or the Red Paint People. I am proud of my heritage and culture. You may never have heard of Chihene N’de. You may know us better as Apache or maybe Chiricahua Apache, the same as you may not know the name Goyathlay, but recognize him as Geronimo. Apache, Geronimo, and Indian were names GIVEN by our enemies. Apache derives from a Zuni word, apachu, a derogatory term that means enemy strangers. It is said that in France the slang for street thug is “Apache.” Most Apache have come to accept these given word identifiers primarily because we know who we truly are.
Let’s be clear on the issue with “Redskins.” Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins are not suggesting that we call Native Americans “redskins” again. It is and has been for 80+ years the name of the football team. No one has ever suggested that we ditch American Indian or Native American and go with Redskin.
Okay, the term redskin has a storied history for sure, as does this country and its policies on “dealing with the Indian problem” To the Whites we were Indians, but natives had no concept of India so more than likely my ancestors probably thought it meant “Human” or “Person.” So in turn, we translated Indian as Person and you end up with some literal translation of a word that is some variant of Red People, Red Man, Red Paint People, Red skin.
Not sure why it was necessary to translate our words, but I suppose it’s the same for other people like the Japanese. In their language, you cannot even spell JAPAN. They say Nihon and that they are Nihon Jin, but we say Japanese.
While there is plenty of documentation that this word was not given to us by those who sought to “deal” with us, this was a word born from our people’s language and used by our people when dealing with the government. Red does not now and has never has referred to our natural skin color. Even the settlers did not initially describe us as “red.” They described us as tawny, bronze, copper or brown. Red is a Spiritual reference and varies from tribe to tribe. It has to do with our origin being made from the Red Earth of these lands.
It is not a matter of reclaiming this word as a term to call the collective population of Native Americans. This is about having pride in it and not allowing the ignorance of a few to steal that proud word and turn it into a slur. People can prefer to call themselves whatever they want. People can choose to be proud or choose to be offended. I am not suggesting taking away the right to feel offense. But neither should anyone tread on my right to see this word as a symbol of unity and pride.
Mark One Wolf
“REDSKINS” image by Janine Vandenberg, Redskins Art. Used with permission.