Preserving Native Legacy
NAGA has been active since our inception in 2014 in the fight for the preservation of Native identity. In 2014, NAGA as well as various tribal leaders, including Peter McDonald with the Navajo Nation, wrote Amicus Briefs in support of the Washington Redskins in the trademark lawsuit, which was ultimately dismissed. In 2017, then President of NAGA, Mark Yellowhorse, represented the Navajo Nation as part of pregame ceremonies at the Kansas City Chiefs Arrowhead Stadium.
At the collegiate level, NAGA organized a large contingent of Dakota Sioux in 2017 to perform outside the stadium prior to the homecoming game at the University of Illinois. The event was a watershed moment as the only two universities with a tribal affiliation to lose their decades-long Native identities were the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the University of Illinois Fighting Illini. In 2019, NAGA secured a favorable memorandum of law, prepared by a prominent civil rights attorney, leaving open the door for a future lawsuit against the NCAA in response to their blatantly discriminatory policy which singles out only the Native American race.
As far as public schools, NAGA has been defending Native themed schools across the country for several years now, or as a 2019 Forbes Magazine article reported, "complicating the picture is the seeming omnipresence of a group called the Native American Guardian's Association, which has crisscrossed the country arguing that it, as a group of Native Americans, want to keep respectful use of Native mascots in the name of keeping their history alive." As often happens, the media got it wrong. NAGA opposes Native American mascots but supports the respectful use of Indian names and imagery in sports and the mainstream.
In 2019, NAGA helped Neshaminy High School in Pennsylvania win their three-year battle with the State Human Relations Commission which ruled the school could keep their Redskins name, modify their logo to something more regionally accurate per the recommendation of NAGA, and initiate Native American education programs. In their ruling, the Commission cited the NAGA motto, "Educate not Eradicate." Unfortunately, a handful of states have or are considering eradication over education. States including Maine, California, and Oregon have passed blatantly unconstitutional laws banning Native American names and imagery in public schools and other public entities. The attorney for NAGA has sent letters to State Legislatures warning against passing such unconstitutional legislation with some success, however, legal challenges are likely the only remaining recourse to stop this assault on Native American identity and legacy.
Beyond advocating for the preservation of Native American heritage in sports and educational institutions, NAGA continues to be on the front lines fighting for the preservation of other Native identifiers as well as promoting the naming of new ones. In 2019, NAGA successfully lobbied for the renaming of "Sully's Hill" in North Dakota to "White Horse Hill" in honor of Native Americans. General Sully, for whom the hill was originally named, was a renowned Indian killer. NAGA is currently working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a project to name an island in the Mississippi River to recognize local Native heritage.