The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation (OAF) paid a visit to the Fort Yuma Quechan Tribe in Winterhaven, CA, and the reports relayed to ICTMN describe a meeting that was both bizarre and insulting.
The Quechan have been planning a skate park for some time; designs are posted to Facebook and some fund-raising activities have been held. An OAF delegation, led by Executive Director Gary Edwards, had come to town to offer funding to complete the project.
"We respectfully listened to their presentation," said Kenrick Escalanti, President of Kwatsan Media Inc. "But when Gary Edwards referred to himself as a 'redskin' in front of our Nation’s officials, I knew that their visit had ulterior motives."
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The OAF crew presented renderings of the park using a color scheme of burgundy and gold — the Washington Redskins' team colors.
The OAF essentially offered the Quechan a blank check, proposing to fully fund the skate park. Additionally, the organzation would give every Quechan child an iPad for the purpose of learning their Native language. Edwards told those present that accepting the money and gifts would not be portrayed as an endorsement of the name. "You don't even need to say we gave you anything," he said. The OAF added that it has 147 projects in the works, with cooperation of over 40 tribes.
The Quechan didn't like the sound of any of it.
"We say no," Escalanti says. "There are no questions about this. We will not align ourselves with an organization to simply become a statistic in their fight for name acceptance in Native communities. We’re stronger than that and we know bribe money when we see it."
In addition to an unappealing deal, Escalanti says that Edwards presented something that might be even more disturbing: A deeply flawed attempt to frame the defense of the team's name in historical terms. Those opposed to the name, Edwards said, are "creating the old assimilation policy now being enacted today." Edwards added that "we [Native Americans] need to get stronger because if we don't they will annihilate us! That is my sincere heartfelt belief."
"Assimilation" and "annihilation" are heavy terms to be throwing around in Indian country. Both refer to specific, harmful U.S. government policies that attempted to "solve" what was once openly called the government's "Indian problem." Assimilation and annihilation call to mind a tragic loss of culture and life, the brutal aftereffects of colonialism and manifest destiny. Co-opting these terms in defense of a football team with an objectionable name, a team that is not owned by American Indians and does not field American Indian players, is deeply insulting to Native students of history as well as those who are simply trying to figure out how they can stay true to their culture while navigating modern American society.
Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (EONM) offered this interpretation: Edwards "appears to feel that only by being a mascot for a $1.8 billion team can Native Americans continue to exist in this country."
The meeting, quite obviously, hadn't gone as the OAF representatives wanted; nor did the rest of the day. Escalanti told Jacqueline Keeler of EONM that the OAF delegation clearly wanted to stay afterward, to meet community members, but Tribal elders made it known that no such thing would happen.
In summation, Escalanti said that "the Washington Redskins franchise is trying to buy tribal support by handing out iPads and blank checks. We don’t need hush money, we need the franchise to respect that the majority of Native America is against the racial slur they use as a team name."
The Quechan Tribe and Kwatsan Media Inc. will continue, as planned, to raise funds for the Memorial Skate Park. To learn more, including information on how to get involved or donate to the effort, visit quechanskate.com and the project's Facebook page.