Croatan Indians Think Redskins Should Keep Their Name
President Obama said in an AP interview last Friday that "a sizable group" of Native American Indians don't like the name 'Redskins' for the Washington NFL football team.
One tribe in North Carolina with about 1,200 members has something to say about Obama's marketing ploy to pressure a private enterprise to cave to a special interest's crusade.
Some members of the Croatan Indians of Sampson County, that can trace their origins back to 1650, provided statements. When remarking on Obama's meddling with the Redskins' name, Randy Davis of Godwin said:
Having spent years in DC and being a Croatan Indian, it sickens me to see President Obama weighing in on a team who gave me hope as a Native American in my youth. The President's time would be better spent asking NC Governor Pat McCrory why his office is currently ignoring the pleas for whistle blower protection from the Croatan Indians of Sampson County NC.
Other Croatans offered their take on the president's comments. Trina Maynor made the suggestion to attach the Croatan name to the "Washington Redskins so they will be achieving what our county, state, and federal authorities have failed to do -- acknowledge us as real Indians that really do exist."
Farrell Howard said he is "not offended by the term Redskins used as the name of a professional team. They are warriors and survivors and a great name for a team." And James Davis was emphatic when he said, "the Redskins are the genuine article, just as the Croatan Indians of Sampson County are legitimate. It seems anyone real must be bashed by those whose identity is in doubt. Leave the Redskins alone."
The Croatans know about battling to keep their name. They exist, but are not listed along with the eight official tribes in North Carolina.They have been struggling to keep their identity, but through a series of moves by the Lumbee and Coharie to shore up their own rolls, the Croatans' good name has become invisible. The Croatans have strong feelings about anyone attacking a moniker like 'redskin' and claiming it's derogatory.
Political Correctness and Native Americans
A Native American activist, Suzan Harjo has campaigned since the 1990's to force the Redskins to change their name. Now she works alongside Ray Halbritter, a leader of the Oneida Indian Nation to pressure the owner of the team to change the name. While in Georgetown, DC at a conference to counteract the NFL's position, Harjo said, "You have Native people saying it's offensive, owners saying we're lying, and the President saying, 'Hey, it is offensive,'" Harjo said. "It's validation. Any time the President says anything, it's important." Thus, getting the president to utter a simple phrase gets you what you want and gives him a substantial increase in his party's voter base.
Last March, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) sponsored a bill that "would prevent the term "Redskins" from being trademarked and would erode profits to the team by allowing other businesses to sell apparel and goods featuring the name." The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registrations Act of 2013 would "amend the Trademark Act of 1946 regarding the disparagement of Native American persons or peoples through marks that use the term 'redskin', and for other purposes."
Norton and Lewis had previously made it known that they wanted the Washington Redskins to change their name. Playing the race card for a race that's not your own?
Then on June 26, 2013, Obama signed an executive order to create a new commission, the White House Council on Native American Affairs, to help Native Americans with their governments. But the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs already oversees federally recognized tribes [nearly 600 tribes] to whom this order is directed. Betty McCollum (D-MN) co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus says, "This special recognition of tribal sovereignty by the White House will give Indian issues a higher profile[.]"
Here in North Carolina we have eight tribes consisting of over 122,000 members. However, the Eastern Band of Cherokees that operates a casino in Western North Carolina is the only federally recognized tribe.
Maybe Obama's utterances about Native Americans and their possible racial sensitivity to a name that most of them don't find offensive has been helpful to the Croatan cause. Washington DC and North Carolina may now hear the heartfelt pleas by the tribe whose name means the difference between survival and extinction.