It’s official. The headlines in the Washington Post screamed: “Washington’s NFL team is retiring the Redskins name; new name to come later.” My first thought was what next? That name has graced (or disgraced) the team for almost a century.
It was in 1933 when the name was first used by a team that used to call itself the Boston Braves. The owner of the team, George Preston Marshall, said in demonstration of his appreciation of the intelligence of the sports fans that: “So much confusion has been caused by our football team wearing the same name as the Boston National League club that change appeared to be absolutely necessary. The fact that we have in our head coach , Lone Star Dietz, an Indian together with several Indian players, has not, as may be suspected, inspired me to select the name Redskins.”
You may want to decide whether Lone Star was an Indian or not. One article said the FBI investigated his claim in 1918. At that time the FBI did not exist.
Lone Star was put on trial for claiming a false heritage. He did though play football for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School with Jim Thorpe which was coached by Pop Warner. That school’s goal was sort of like the the conversion places where gay men were supposed to be made straight. It was run by a guy named General Richard Henry Pratt who reportedly said: “Carlisle meant to turn the school into the ultimate Americanizer.” Or, as one said, “to kill the Indian to save the man.”
The owner Marshall was an avowed segregationist. His team did not have an African-American player, the last in the NFL, until 1962 and then only after it was pressured. He owned the team until 1969. A sportswriter called him “the last of the small-time spenders.”
Listening to Marshall’s explanation for naming the team Redskins he looked upon it as something that would please Indians. I don’t think he would have wanted to alienate his coach or players. But times change tastes and what’s good for the goose is not necessary good for her grand children.
Obviously the name Redskins is going to be killed, rather than retired, and thrown into the trash barrel of history. It will no longer be accepted as a proper word although the R word will not have the evil connotations associated with the N word.
Of course you do recognize that not is only the name Redskins when associated with the National Football League that has been killed. So has the name Boston. I’m not sure what the problem with Boston is although there is a book that has been written called “The Problem of Boston” which I have not read which may explain why the NFL killed the name Boston.
As I said when I first heard this I thought “what next.” I did that in the context of my own life experience. One of the joys of my youth was when I took the trolley out of Park Street on my way to Boston Latin School. It went over Huntington Avenue. I would stare out the window waiting anxiously to see the beautiful and dignified 1908 Indian statue in front of the Museum of Fine Arts called “Appeal to the Great Spirit.” It made me admire the Indian, showing his beauty and courage. It still does when I bring my grandchildren to see it.
The sculpture was done by Cyrus Dallin who grew up in Utah and witnessed the mistreatment of Indians. He “created his work during intense ambivalence about Native Americans, and his work honors the indigenous response to colonizers.” In a letter to The Boston Globe, Dallin wrote that “Native American land claim settlements were a diabolical invention, and destroying human beings.”
I have read the museum is under pressure to remove it because it was done by Dallin, a white man. Hopefully that will not be done. Why does the race of the sculptor matter. Martin Luther King’s sculpture in Washington D.C. was done by a person who lives in China; the Statue of Liberty by a man from France.
As I see it the least intelligent American zealots (sort of like the Taliban) with the loudest voices are dragging our country down to the level of the dumb. From those who arm themselves to preserve the right to spread Covid-19 to those who want to eliminate a statue or painting which doesn’t meet their ever changing ahistorical standards we are being whipped around by our tails.
It is time for us Americans to say enough. Not because one may gain political points as is being done by some who seek to curry favor; but because we want an educated population that can look at a statue and be free to decide for themselves what it intends to convey and not what they are demanded to understand of it by other people.