Navajo Nation citizens had a five-day period to comment on a proposed bill introduced by Navajo Council member Joshua Lavar Butler (Tó Nanees Dizi) opposing the use of disparaging references to Native People by professional sports franchises.
Butler’s Legislation No. 0078-14 was posted on the Navajo Nation Council’s website on March 13 for a five-day comment period and became available for committee action on March 19.
Although the bill is not on the agenda of a special session of the council scheduled for March 26, the agenda could be amended to include a discussion and a vote on the proposal.
Butler said in a media release that the legislation seeks to establish an official position of the Navajo Nation to oppose the use of such derogatory terms as “Redskins,” as used by the Washington Redskins—a professional football team of the National Football Association.
“It is time for the Navajo Nation to finally take a firm position on this national issue that hurts Indian country. The Navajo Nation can no longer afford to sit back and remain neutral on this issue,” Butler said in the release. “We have found that our lack of action on this topic undermines our overall advocacy efforts at the state and federal government levels and it affects our inter-tribal relations as well. We must make a strong position and say enough is enough. It’s about time the largest tribe in the United States speaks and is heard across this land.”
A digital copy of the legislation is available online here.
In a meeting with Indian Country Today Media Network at RES (Reservation Economic Summit) 2014 in Las Vegas the week of March 17, Butler said that the majority of comments Nation citizens submitted overwhelmingly favored the bill and he believes his council colleagues will approve the proposal. A positive legislative council vote will be final, meaning there is no provision for a presidential veto, Butler said.
Language in the legislation states that several professional sports franchises, including the Washington Redskins, continue to utilize references to Native Americans in mascots and team names. The term “redskin” or “redskins” originated from a time when bounties were offered for the murder of Native Americans and their scalps turned in for money, Butler noted.
“The use of terms referencing Native Americans in professional sports has a negative psychological effect on Native Americans,” Butler said. “Such terms only promote low self-esteem and self-image in Native youth who are already disadvantaged by social ills beyond their control.” He cited a 2004 report by Stephanie A. Fryberg of Stanford University that found usage of such terms actually promotes and increases the self-esteem of non-Native people.
The latest news on the Navajo Nation’s legislative branch activities is available here.