— The name of a certain pro football team in Washington, D.C., has inspired protests, hearings, editorials, lawsuits, letters from Congress, even a presidential nudge. Yet behind the headlines, it's unclear how many Native Americans think "Redskins" is a racial slur.
The controversy has peaked in the last few days. President Barack Obama said Saturday he would consider getting rid of the name if he owned the team, and the NFL took the unprecedented step Monday of promising to meet with the Oneida Indian Nation, which is waging a national ad campaign against the league.
What gets far less attention, though, is this:
There are Native American schools that call their teams Redskins. The term is used affectionately by some natives, similar to the way the N-word is used by some African-Americans. In the only recent poll to ask native people about the subject, 90 percent of respondents did not consider the term offensive, although many question the cultural credentials of the respondents.
All of which underscores the oft-overlooked diversity within Indian Country.
Here are a variety of thoughts from a recent Associated Press story:
"Stories on the mascot issue always end up exploring whether it is right or it is wrong, respectful or disrespectful. It would be interesting to get a sense of the diversity of opinion within a native community." – Carter Meland, professor of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota.
"Society, they think it's more derogatory because of the recent discussions. In its pure form, a lot of Native American men, you go into the sweat lodge with what you've got — your skin. I don't see it as derogatory.” – Tommy Yazzie, superintendent of the Red Mesa school district on the Navajo Nation reservation
"If we are offending one person we need to be listening." – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell