On Friday, many in Indian country were horrified to learn that the celebrity golf tournament put on by KTNN, the Navajo Nation’s radio station, had cut a sponsorship deal with the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. Among those taken by surprise were the National Indian Gaming Association, a sponsor of the event, and the Notah Begay III Foundation, which had donated items to the silent auction — both organizations withdrew their support and demanded their names be taken off the tournament’s program.
Jacqueline Keeler, Navajo/Yankton Sioux, a founder of EONM (Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry) and a twitter activist whose campaigns have included the hashtags #NotYourTonto and #NotYourMascot, was also shocked by the proceedings. She offered her thoughts to ICTMN:
“I think it is unfortunate the Navajo Nation administration of Ben Shelly is so out of step with the Navajo people, particularly, the young people, regarding this issue. Obviously, offensive cultural appropriation done by non-Native fans of Native Mascots does not generally include Navajo culture. We do not see them performing Sand Paintings at half-time or dressed like Yeii, but we should understand that most Americans are unable to differentiate between tribes enough to understand that and that Navajo children, two-thirds of whom live off the reservation are subjected to these ignorant ideas about who they are as Native Americans.
“Also, the administration should show the leadership that the rest of Indian Country expects from the largest Native Nation in the United States. The Navajo Nation is right to stand with recognized representative bodies like the National Congress of American Indians which represents the majority of Native people in this country and protect the civil rights and promote true understanding of Native people. This reliance on stereotypes about Native people that mascots promote have a real effect on the voting records of state and Congressional representatives and results in reduced funding for programs that we need on the Navajo Nation. The negative effects on self-esteem of our youth are measurable and real. We need our leaders to stand up for the people and to recognize our ties and affirm our solidarity with all tribes.
“I am also alarmed at the underhanded way this event was handled. The other funders were unaware of the Washington Redsk*ns OAF involvement until the day before and Ben Shelley has repeatedly refused to comment on his meeting with Snyder. It feels like the Navajo people have been hoodwinked into supporting racism and have dragged other national American Indian organizations through the mud in the process. This fundraising to cover the use of a racist slur by a billionaire takes away from the fundraising efforts of legitimate American Indian foundations and takes needed money away from them. It is a travesty.”