School Board Members

For any school board member reading this, ask yourself the following question. If I want to get the truthful, unfiltered opinion of Native people concerning these sports names and images, should I rely on what activist organizations and tribal politicians say the people think about them or rely upon the opinion of the people themselves? Of course, it would be expected that any fair minded person would opt to listen to the people themselves, however in too many instances, school board members have ignored the voice of the people in favor of the powerful political elites who claim to speak for them.

 

The change activists rely upon the voices of those with whom they are politically allied to base their entire biased argument upon. They speak for only themselves and about 9% of Native people. NAGA on the other hand relies upon multiple surveys of INDIVIDUAL Native Americans conducted by INDEPENDENT organizations which all reveal 79-91% of Native people have no problem with the use of Native names and imagery in sports. A 2002 poll conducted by the Harris Research Group found 83% of Native American surveyed said sports teams should not stop using Indian references. A 2004 poll conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center revealed 90% of American Indians surveyed do not find the Washington Redskins name offensive. A 2013 poll conducted by the Associated Press GFK revealed 79% of Native Americans surveyed oppose the Washington Redskins changing their name. Finally, a 2016 Washington Post poll revealed 91% of American Indians have no opinion, have no problem with, or support the Washington Redskins name . The name change activists can only try to poke holes in the very sound methodology used by these well respected polling organizations. To counter these independent survey results which do not fit their narrative, the changers once again turned to their elitist allies in academia-- in this case, ultra liberal UC Berkeley to manufacture more favorable survey results. 

 

Another question a school board member might ask is, have any tribal nations actually had a vote of the people concerning these names and images? The answer is yes. In the only vote of its kind to date, the members of the Spirit Lake Tribe of North Dakota voted by a margin of 67% in 2009 to keep the Fighting Sioux name and logo at the University of North Dakota. This figure exactly mirrors the results of the 2002 Harris Research Group survey of Native people living on reservations concerning these names and images. The Spirit Lake Tribal chairwoman at the time opposed the Fighting Sioux name and logo, and had the people not forced a vote by way of petition, the official stance of the tribe would have been in opposition when in fact the exact opposite was true.

 

Finally, a fair minded school board member might wonder if any independent judiciaries have heard both sides of the argument concerning these names and images and rendered any rulings. The answer again is yes. In federal court, the trademark lawsuit brought by activist Susan Harjo against the Washington Redskins was dismissed by the judge, citing that she had lived in the area too long to now claim offense. In response, Harjo recruited a much younger activist, Amanda Blackhorse to carry forward the lawsuit, which was ultimately dropped by the plaintiffs in 2017 as a result of the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the "Slants" lawsuit. This case set an important new precedent for free speech constitutional guarantees prevailing over any claims of offense.

 

At the state level, the Human Relations Commission of Pennsylvania effectively ruled against themselves in a lawsuit they carried forward against the Neshaminy High School District Redskins. In a 3 year long legal battle, the fact based arguments of NAGA's expert witnesses was so overwhelming that the commission ruled the school could keep their Redskins name, modify their logo to something more regionally accurate per the recommendation of NAGA, and implement Native American education. In their ruling the commission even cited the NAGA motto--educate not eradicate. (<--Click link to view)

 

Anecdotally, go to virtually any Indian reservation in the country and you will find the people wearing apparel bearing the Native imagery of their favorite sports teams. These sports teams and non-native public schools typically use similar nicknames and imagery that reservation/Native American community schools use to represent their athletic teams. The popularity of these Indian sports logos among the common sense, regular people in Indian country can best be summed by the following excerpts from a letter written by the former tribal Chief of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Dee Ketchum and his wife Annette:

 

"Sometimes Indians laugh when we hear the foolishness going on over the names of elementary, high school, college, and professional athletic teams. I wore a Washington Redskins cap to elder nutrition lunches for weeks one summer. The comments were, 'where can I get a cap?, I like your hat!, that's my favorite team, go Redskins!'....I got big smiles, gestures of two thumbs up, yes head nods, and no negative remarks."

 

"I would challenge American Indian people to think about what is happening in America. We see radical people tearing down statues, burning and defacing the historic sites. What is the reason to erase the history of our nation? Who benefits if future generations do not know this continent is still inhabited by Indians if there is no evidence of it? We will stand up for history even though our Indian ancestors were dreadfully mistreated, killed, and repeatedly moved from our homes. No one can change the past, but we all learn from it."

NAGA believes that Native American opinion should be a factor in the decision making process of school board members, but ultimately it should be the majority sentiment of the local stakeholders (Native and non-native alike) that should be the determining factor concerning this matter and not any local tribes or organizations including NAGA, which are not taxpaying members of the community. NAGA does not endeavor to tell communities what to do, but rather provide factual information and offer the positive alternatives of education combined with modification rather then outright eradication.