Former US Senator Byron Dorgan made a strong argument in a USA Today article explaining why the Washington NFL Team should change its name.
Dorgan began with the narrative of Scarlet Crow, the tribal leader of the Wahpetin Sisseton tribe in the Dakota Territory, whose murder was covered up as a suicide when he took a trip to Washington, D.C., in 1867 to negotiate a treaty with the federal government.
“In those days, the death of an Indian in Washington didn't prompt much of an investigation,” Dorgan wrote. “Indians were dismissed by some as "savages" or "redskins," who lived on the frontier causing trouble for those who were trying to steal their land.”
He said that American history is littered with “evidence of abuse and disgusting treatment of American Indians” and that “despite the fact that they were here first, Indians weren’t even recognized as American citizens for the first half of our nation’s history.”
Dorgan, who served as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs during part of his nearly two-decade term in office, said that this sad history is what the current name-change controversy is all about.
“Martin Luther King Jr. implored us to ‘judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin,’” wrote Dorgan. “A football team that is named ‘Redskins’ in the year 2013 fails that test.”
Dorgan said that he does not think that Dan Snyder, the NFL team’s owner, players or the fans intend to offend Native Americans by using the term. “But what might have been seen as acceptable many decades ago is no longer acceptable,” Dorgan said. “Times change, and the failure to change with it ignores the progress we have made in so many areas.”
This month, Dorgan will host five young Native Youth in D.C. for his Champions for Change program. “Even at their young age they know about prejudice,” he said. “They wouldn’t expect to be called ‘Redskins’ when they visit our city.”