“Redskins / Redmen is a dictionary-defined slur”
Redskins / Redmen has never been a slur or derogatory. Anyone who leaps to change a dictionary definition of a word, is literally attempting to “pejorate” or make that word hateful. That is a political position that not only brings shame to an honorable name but doesn’t reflect the position of 90% of Native Americans that elevate or “ameliorate” the name Redskins / Redmen.
Those that try to eradicate Redskins / Redmen are at odds with the vast majority of Native Americans that support Native imagery and Names.
The Native American Guardians Association protect and defend our imagery and the Name Redskins / Redmen. They provide the following non-pejorative definitions of Redskins and Redmen:
A non-pejorative term used by schools, organizations and sports teams. Often used with Native American imagery.
A Native American self-identifying name used as early as 1812:
Chief Meskwaki Black Thunder “I turn to all, red skins and white skins, and challenge an accusation against me.”
Big Elk to US President James Monroe, 1822: "I am almost the only Red Skin opposed to war.”
A contemporary name revered by the vast majority of Native Americans and general public.
A non-pejorative term used in reference to the “Sons of Liberty” who concealed their identities and worked “underground” to help establish freedom and liberty in the early Colonies. After the War of 1812 the name was changed from the Sons of Liberty to the “Society of Red Men” and in 1834 to the “Improved Order of Red Men” which is the oldest fraternal organization recognized by Congress.
People that write dictionary definitions are called Lexicographers. Lexicographers don’t decide which words are “proper.”
Role of a dictionary is not to say what is correct. It is to say what is in use in language, and if people are using something different from how it’s used traditionally, that thing is going to go in regardless of whether or not you like it.”
NAGA believes dictionaries have failed their mission in the case of Redskins and Redmen.
Some have questioned the ideologic and political leanings of dictionary writers and editors. The paper below highlights:
From Steve Kleinedler, the executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary:
“Decisions such as these come about by analyzing how the term is used in the media (magazines, newspapers, television, radio) in edited sources. (Nowadays we also analyze online media, of course.) When usage issues are involved, we also look at a variety of style guides (New York Times, AP, MLA, Chicago Manual, Washington Post, just to name a few.) If style guides shift in a certain direction, we will follow that shift.”
Mr. Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Merriam-Webster’s provides the “Corpus of Contemporary American English” as proof that the dictionaries failed their mission: The corpus had 168 references to the term “Redskin” which break down as:
- 136 refer to the Washington team
- 19 used as a synonym for an American Indian
- 11 concerning the legal battle over the team’s name
- 1 inconclusive due to context
- 1 to a redskin potato
So out of 168 examples, there was only 1 that might have been offensive. Even if one adds the 11 concerning the legal battle, it hardly justifies the label of usually offensive.
The full paper is here online and attached for your edification:
Early definition of redskin:
The origin of the word Redskin / Redmen:
The historical Redskin is specific to those early, red-painted native warriors who were known for their bravery, skill and fighting spirit. The Red Men were Red-painted warriors ready for battle.
“Redskins” or “Red people” are the most authentic terms as the Native Americans used a color system to identify others. In the late 1600s and 1700s, the term was first used by Native Americans to self-describe and distinguish themselves from the White man and Black man.
“Redskins” is derived from Native Americans using the Blood Root plant and dye derived from it, as ceremonial preparation for battle. Redskin tribes turned to available red dyes or paint to cover their shaven heads, arms, torsos and legs. They believed this color would protect them like a spiritual suit of armor - in a belief that they had made a connection with their war spirits who would guide them and provide strength and courage in battle. Red symbolized blood, energy and power.
“Redmen” goes back to 1765 and the founding of our country. It arose from the “Sons of Liberty” who concealed their identities and worked “underground” to help establish freedom and liberty in the early Colonies. After the War of 1812 the name was changed from the “Sons of Liberty” to the “Society of Red Men” and in 1834 to the “Improved Order of Red Men” which is the oldest fraternal organization recognized by Congress.