- Statement from PSESD
July 20, 2020
The Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) supports and celebrates the NFL’s Washington Football Team deciding to retire the Redskin team name and plan to move forward with a name that is not a racial slur against Indigenous People and Native Americans.
This name change is happening as a result of persistent voices of many tribal leaders, members, and activists; with the support of many non-Native allies during this unique time in our history with regard to social justice and equality. We are grateful to them for never giving up on the long-standing issue and recognize the companies that helped influence the decision.
The PSESD supports the use of positive images of Indigenous people and believes the stereotypical use of Native American imagery negatively impacts students in schools and sport teams. Such use does not support racially just and humanizing educational systems. Native culture is not caricature of the past, but the very foundation of a history in which we are working to strengthen and nurture through the work of the Native American Education Program (NAEP).
Research shows 87% of U.S. History content standards across the United States fails to discuss Native American history and culture after the year 1900. If students only learn of Indigenous people pre-1900, added with stereotypical sports images and fake chants like the “Tomahawk Chop” the past 80 years, then they are missing out on so much more of our history and culture up to present day.
“For me personally, this is a day I never thought would come,” said NAEP Manager Jason LaFontaine (Turtle Mountain Chippewa). “When Indigenous people make up 2% of the country’s population and whose voices have long been ignored, you assume those in power will not listen to you.
“The team name and logo has had a unique effect on Native people and communities. The name Redskins became normalized so much that many tribal schools adopted that name as their sports mascot,” LaFontaine said. “Growing up in the 70s and 80s in an urban area, not knowing the history of the word, and rarely seeing Native American imagery in society I liked seeing the Redskins play because they had a Native person on their helmet, and I was Native. It was like ‘hey, we exist!’”, LaFontaine said. “But as I grew older and saw the negative connotations and impact the name and the logo represented I came to understand how inappropriate it was. It’s especially ironic, and even more offensive, when you realize it represented the team from the nation’s capital, the home of so many policies that negatively affected and continues to affect Native communities.”
Below is an article and a column about the decision and issue from Native journalists working for Indian Country Today if you would like to learn more: