I speak for no one but myself when saying it is saddening that Tulsa Union High School has followed the lead of the NFL’s Washington Team, by dropping its mascot name of “Redskins.”
Through the early 20th Century, United States Indian Policy involved taking Indian homelands and confining the Indian people to reservations, where they were humbled. Their dignity destroyed by poverty, alcoholism, lack of education, public scorn and ridicule, the once self-sufficient occupants of America were forced to depend on the mercy of Indian Agents and profiteers.
Meanwhile, several tribes that were relocated under authority of the Indian Removal Act, realized their future depended on working to improve their situation. They instituted governments, schools and societies that respected their heritage, but understood that they must adapt to survive.
During these trying times, “redskin” was surely a derogatory term that conjured images of “wild Indians” attacking white settlers, or drunken Indians on a reservation. These “Redskins” were not generally considered productive members of society, regardless of tribal accomplishments. However, the accomplishments of individuals such as Jim Thorpe and Will Rogers were becoming recognized, and terms such as “redskin,” “braves,” and “warriors” were often laudatory, not derogatory.
In my opinion, naming a team “Redskins,” “Braves,” or “Chiefs” is a tribute to the fighting and winning spirit of the aboriginal occupants of America that in spite of devastating wars and diseases, brought by Europeans, still thrive. To think a sports team that has the goal of winning on game day would name their team after people they consider losers is ludicrous.
In the mid 1970’s, along with Kugee Supernaw, Pam Chibitty and others, I was involved in the incorporation of The Tulsa Indian Chamber of Commerce, as the founding president. During this time, I was called a name by a few Indian detractors that bothered me more than anything a white person ever called me. They called me an “Apple,” saying I was red on the outside and white on the inside, because I was working to pull Indians into a white man’s world.
In my life experience, I have been called “Chief,” “Red-man,” “Redskin,” “Brave,” “Blanket,” and others, but I always had enough sense to know when these were used derogatorily by opponents, or in recognition of my heritage, by friends.
May my “Redskin” brothers and sisters ever thrive in this great country.