Indian advocate urges Redskins to drop name

He also seeks new logo for D.C.'s football team

March 01, 2001|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

Richard Regan acknowledges that his crusade to persuade Maryland schools to drop Indian-themed mascots and names for their sports teams hasn't generated a groundswell of public support.

He was told it was a "nitwit idea" and "political correctness run amok." Even fellow Native Americans told him he needs to lighten up.

That hasn't deterred Regan, a member of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. He has upped the ante, calling for the Washington Redskins to change the team's name and logo.

"To American Indians, it is almost what the `n-word' is to African-Americans," Regan said. "It's a violent word, an ugly and offensive word."

Regan wants the Indian commission to approve a resolution next week asking Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder to change the professional football team's name, which it has used for almost 70 years.

The resolution would be similar to one the commission approved at last month's meeting. That was directed at about 30 Maryland schools with such sports team names as the Warriors, Indians, Braves and Redskins.

Regan says he wants to be consistent. "I heard from people who said to me, `You're picking on these little schools, and there's this big elephant out there called the Redskins,'" he said.

He says he's hopeful the commission will pass the resolution and open a "dialogue" with the Redskins.

Commission Chairman Barbara "Bobby" Little Bear says it's likely the resolution will pass. "We're not out to cause trouble or stand on soap boxes," she said. "We're trying to raise sensitivity. All we're asking for is respect from other people."

The idea got a chilly reception from Redskins executives yesterday. "At this point, we have no plans to change the name of the organization," said Karl Swanson, a team senior vice president.

Swanson said the organization does not consider its name and logo - adopted in the 1930s - to be disrespectful or offensive. He noted that the team's logo was designed by a Native American.

"We think the way we deal with the name is done with a lot of respect and that it signifies pride and respect," Swanson said. "That's the way we employ it, and that's what it stands for."

The same argument is posed by some Maryland school principals who also say they see no need to change team names like the Warriors or Indians.

"I think a lot of Native American symbols are revered by students at our school," said Richard P. Akers, principal of Boonsboro High School in Washington County.

The school's sports teams are called the Boonsboro Warriors, and their mascot is an Indian chief. A totem pole stands at the entrance to the school.

"We use it as a symbol of pride, something to be revered," Akers said. "I don't see how that would offend someone."

Regan acknowledges he got only negative calls when he participated in a Baltimore radio station talk show to discuss the issue recently, but he said he won't drop his efforts.

"Sometimes a negative response is better than no response at all," he said.

"I'm firmly convinced it's the right thing to do and that we're on the high moral ground here. Overall, I get the sense these mascots are going to go the way of the dinosaurs eventually."

Opinion on the issue appears divided, even among American Indians.

"I don't see anything racial with the name Redskins, because we called ourselves the red people," said Robert Swift Arrow Daniel Rose, who identified himself as an Iroquois who lives in Manassas, Va. "He [Regan] doesn't speak for everyone. It's his own views."

Rose said it's hard to imagine names such as Warriors being offensive. "You wouldn't call your team the `cream puffs' to psych out your opponents," he said.

Others side with Regan. "I agree with him 100 percent," said Billy Red Wing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation in Southern Maryland.

He said the term Redskins is a "racial slur for Americans" and that team names and mascots such as Warriors, Braves and Chiefs turn Indians into caricatures.

Tayac and Regan say the term Redskins is particularly offensive because of its origins. White soldiers were paid a bounty for bringing back the bodies or parts of the "red skins" - Indians they had killed, they said.

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