IT’S AN awkward fact of life in Washington, D.C., that we are home to both the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and the Washington Redskins. One attempts to preserve the Native American cultures that weren’t eradicated by conquest; the other is both a symbol and result of the same eradication.
These two worlds collided this past week when the museum hosted a daylong symposium about Native American sports nicknames. In a packed auditorium, panelists and audience members took the local team to task, calling their name “ugly,” “offensive” and “a racist slur.”
Former Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the only Native American senator in U.S. history, said from the stage, “If you want [your mascot] to be a savage, use your own picture.” Not one person either in the audience or the crowd defended the use of “Redskin,” because, as one fan of the team said to me, “it really is defending the indefensible.”
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