A Native American scholar has taken it upon herself to combat the ubiquitous, albeit false, argument that the majority of Native Americans do not consider the Washington team name offensive.
Dr. Adrienne Keene, a Cherokee and a recent graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has launched a Google Doc that allows Native Americans who oppose of the pejorative to sign their name and prove the argument erroneous.
Currently, the Google Doc is meant solely for Native Americans, as Keene writes in a note on her blog, Native Appropriations.
“Right now, this list is for Native peoples only. I may make an ally list in the future, but our voices as Indigenous Peoples are often silenced on this issue, so we need to be able to make our voices heard and have our own space to come together,” Keene told ICTMN. “This is not to be discriminatory or dismiss the important efforts of non-Natives toward the cause, I just need to be able to say that I have a list of X number of Native peoples. Thank you for your understanding!”
Keene said in an email that she does not refer to the Google Doc as a petition, but a “collective voice.”
“I think it’s different than [a petition],” she said. “It’s a collective voice, thousands of indigenous peoples saying, ‘We’re here, and we care about the ways we are represented’.”
Keene said she launched the Google Doc after she had been conducting research on which organizations and individuals have publicly come out against the team name.
“On [June 23], I was working in pulling together a crowd-sourced list of all of the tribes, organizations, news outlets, celebrities, and athletes who had spoken out against the redsk*ns [sic],” Keene said. “In the media coverage surrounding the debate I keep hearing over and over that the name change is a ‘non issue’ or that ‘white liberals’ are leading the fight – so I wanted a list to show the volume and diversity of folks who have spoken up against the name.”
Keene said proponents of the team name continue to cite a 2004 Annenberg survey, which states that 90 percent of Native Americans do not find the name offensive. “I wanted something to counter that,” she said.
“In addition [to the Annenberg survey], Dan Snyder keeps talking about the ‘hundreds’ of letters he’s received from Natives in support of the team, when I know there are thousands against the name and mascot,” Keene said.
The Google Doc currently has more than 3,890 signatures from citizens of a variety of Native American nations, and that number continues to grow, Keene said.
“I’ve been thinking of doing something in this vein for a long time, but kept feeling paralyzed by wanting to make sure it was perfect and done right – and then I realized that having something, even if it wasn’t perfect, was better than the continued silencing of Native voices on this issue,” she said.
Keene is not sure of what is to follow after the Google Doc, but she said the doc itself stands as a defiant Native American voice against an incorrect declaration.
“Right now I haven’t really thought about next steps. [The Google Doc is] an experiment, to see if the technology would work, if people would be willing to lend their names to the fight,” she said. “It’s proven to be even more successful than I thought. … The list will continue to grow, and as a living document, can offer a visual counter-narrative to what is constantly being said about native peoples in the media – that we ‘don't care’. Clearly we do.”