Newspapers limiting use of 'R-word'

WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 5, 2013

Text size: A A A

One by one, news publications and top sports writers have begun avoiding the Washington, D.C., NFL team name this year, in response to a growing national discomfort over the word "redskins" or as many of us call it, the "R-word" in sports.

Nearly every national Native American organization focused on advancing the lives and rights of Native people -- from the Native American Rights Fund to the National Congress of American Indians Ñ has taken action or spoken in opposition to the name.

Even President Obama in early October offered his views on the matter, saying he would consider changing the name if he were the team's owner. Tribal leaders thanked him for the comments in a meeting at the White House this month.

Yet there's still debate on whether the team name offends or honors Native Americans.

For those on the fence or who remain in support of the nickname as the debate continues, consider this: Would you, in any other context, refer to Native Americans as "redskins'? Would you call me, a member of the Crow Tribe, or any other Native American, a "redskin' in conversation and expect your words to not offend? Probably not.

The team name is a racial slur, dating to a time long before the Washington franchise adopted it 80 years ago.

I serve as president of the Native American Journalists Association. Our nonprofit considers the term so offensive we avoid using it except when absolutely necessary, and generally only to make a point about its disparaging nature.

Letting go of a decades-old moniker for any sports team is difficult, as Port Townsend knows. After 87 years, the local school board voted unanimously in June to retire the Port Townsend High School mascot, which shared the same name as the one used by the Washington NFL franchise.

If precedent is any indicator, the controversy over the name in Port Townsend will continue for months or years. This country has seen emotions run high when these changes come down.

Washington NFL team owner, Dan Snyder, argues the name is a tribute to Native people, and he wrote in a letter to season ticketholders that the name represents a heritage worth preserving for generations to come.

It's difficult to accept this argument. What about the generations of my family and other Native people to come? What about our heritage Ñ which is in no way honored by the Washington team name Ñ or the spectacle that comes each game day when fans don plastic feathers and face paint?

It's time for Snyder to change the team name.

Whatever he decides, news organizations should immediately end use of this offensive slur, just as other slurs are rightfully avoided in our profession.

There are encouraging signs. The Kansas City Star advises against using the term, as does Sports Illustrated's Peter King and USA Today's Christine Brennan. The San Francisco Chronicle last month also became a leader by setting an editorial policy that limits use of the name. The Orange County Register quickly followed suit. I expect others also will in the months to come.

The Seattle Times advises against using the nickname in prominent places, such as headlines, while allowing minimal use in sports stories. It's a policy that recognizes the name is offensive and represents a step in the right direction. It's only right that eventually the paper will find there's no place for the term at all, except when necessary in discussing the controversy surrounding it.

Even the most ardent Washington fans, and Snyder himself, don't appear to publicly use the team name to describe actual members of the more than 500 tribes in this country.

For those still unsure about whether or not the name is offensive, therein lies your answer. It's time to stop using it in sports, conversation, and news.

Mary Hudetz
Native American Journalists Association
Phoenix, Ariz.

Get the facts before selling land

I see articles after articles on Indian Land Buy Back. Indian Land Buy Back I am sure was forced on to the table by the federal government at the 11th hour when Cobell Settlement was being negotiated in 2009 and 2010. I was not at the table when terms were negotiated. The last article "Allottees will get fair market under Cobell' is another example.

I knew Elouise Cobell, worked alongside her for 16 years like many others, testified in federal court for the case speaking with the visions of Navajo elders in my head. She was never for Indian Land Buy Back. This whole scheme is the work of Department of Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs. In fact if you research this, this was another of several attempts by DOI/BIA to get out of a trust responsibility like they are doing in education, health, etc.

When the Allotment Act was first implemented it was the goal that Indian people would be farmers and we would go away into mainstream America, but that backfired. Today, Navajo allotment owners have realized the private landownership just like the white people.

The federal government gave us lands they thought was no use to them but when oil, gas, coal, and uranium was found they are scheming all kinds of ways to get these lands back. Even the Indian Land Consolidation Act was driven by a group of small tribes who had already given up their allotment control to their tribal government.

Navajo allotment is still under the oversight of the BIA who is tired of fractionation of land and record keeping. They created it; make them manage it. Now they have pushed this issue on to the Cobell case and using the late Elouise Cobell's name to promote their schemes. It makes me sick. The headline should read "Federal government/BIA thinks allottee might get a fair deal." I am advising allottees not to sell their interest in their lands. The measly amount of money we'll get is only good for a good day at Wal-Mart or Kmart. When the money is gone, then what?

Land ownership lasts a lot longer than one day. Our Navajo leadership has been sucked into this scheme. In fact, President Shelly is all for it and wants to start the buy back yesterday. If he wants, maybe BIA should start with his and his family's allotment in New Mexico. Sad, but for him it is just another photo opportunity and another article in the papers for him.

Allotment landowners need to get all the facts, pros, and cons of Indian Land Buy Back before jumping for the check. If you hear a BIA/BIE official say, "I am here to help," look out!

Ervin Chavez
President, Shi Shii Keyah Allotment Land Association
President, Nageezi Chapter
Nageezi, N.M.

Dilkon, other chapters also oppose waiver

In the (Farmington) Daily Times Nov. 24 article "Shiprock Chapter opposes waiver language for mine' by Noel Lyn Smith, Shiprock is cited as being the only chapter to pass a resolution against the purchase of the mine focusing on the waving of liabilities. I respectfully submit a correction on the mentioned article because there are three more chapters that approved similar resolutions: Sanostee, Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, and Dilkon.

Utilizing the Unreserved, Undesignated Funds, the interest accrued from the General Fund, affects every Navajo Nation tribal member. This potential acquisition has rapidly progressed through legislative procedure without giving adequate amount of time and input from the Navajo people. Neither the $3.2 million dollar due diligence report nor the Memorandum of Understanding has been released to the Navajo people and yet according to the language of Legislation 0149-13, we are waiving all past, present, and future known and unknown liabilities.

Those liabilities could be environmental, legal, health, economic, etc., and our Navajo leaders passed the legislation that waived the Navajo peoples right for claims. When did our Navajo leaders start prioritizing money over the health of our people, land and culture? How is that in the best interest of the Navajo people?

The General Fund, and by association the Unreserved Undesignated Funds, were invested for future Navajo generations and needs to be invested in opportunities that will benefit future generations with the approval of present generations.

Four chapters passing resolutions against an opportunity should be an indication to our Navajo leaders that this may not be the right path for our people.

Holly Barton
Dilkon, Ariz.

Renewals are best economic bet

Part of the debate about how to approach pollution cleanup at the big Navajo Generating Station coal-fired power plant near the Grand Canyon has always revolved around jobs and revenues for Navajo Nation. Federal regulators heard more on this in recent public hearings.

Some in the Navajo Nation government very much want to see a coal future and therefore slow or delay any change for the coal plant as long as possible. Others, including Navajo community groups like Black Mesa Water Coalition and many Navajo Nation residents, see the energy landscape today quite differently.

We see that in the last two years the two largest U.S. coal companies, Peabody and Arch, have lost more than 75 percent of their value, while over the same period the price of solar panels has dropped 60 percent.

We see utilities around the country buying wind power at prices lower than coal or natural gas, like Xcel Energy's recently approved purchase of nearly 700 megawatts of wind energy which will save customers in New Mexico and Texas nearly $600 million over 20 years.

We also see coal mines for sale in Wyoming getting no buyers and the owner of a mine on eastern Navajo Nation eager to sell because of coal's decreasing competitiveness. And we see proposals for coal export terminals in the U.S. being shelved as projected demand for imported coal in pollution-choked China flattens.

If you look honestly and objectively at the energy landscape today, it's clear that moving quickly to curb coal pollution and develop renewable resources on Navajo Nation is the smart economic bet. It's the way to build lasting Navajo jobs and revenues that can replace the ebbing coal era.

A study this month by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. finds that building and operating 900 megawatts of renewable energy on Navajo Nation to replace one-third of the coal-fired power at Navajo Generating Station will provide approximately the same number of jobs as that third of the coal plant and the Kayenta mine that fuels it.

Factoring in both the direct and indirect employment resulting from the renewable development, as well as the jobs created by spending the royalties paid by developers (or by spending the profits if the projects are Navajo-owned), nearly 1,000 jobs in total will be created with 900 megawatts of renewable energy on Navajo Nation.Ê In terms of feasibility, we're talking about a region with existing transmission and where multiple studies have found astonishing potential for both solar and wind. In terms of additional benefits beyond jobs, we would see the savings of large quantities of Colorado River water now used in coal production that could be redirected to improve Navajo agriculture. We would also see the immeasurable benefit in human health from producing power without harmful air pollution.

However, the longer that cleanup requirements for Navajo Generating Station and the transition they motivate are delayed or left uncertain, the more we inhibit clean alternatives that can provide even greater economic benefits.

The more that leaders are too hesitant to see the handwriting on the wall for coal and move to seize economic opportunity in clean renewable energy, the more Navajo Nation risks missing a window to build and provide job-and revenue-generating clean power.

It's a window that will narrow and eventually close if we wait too long and too many others around the Southwest get there first.

Wahleah Johns
Oakland, Calif.
(Hometown: Forest Lake, Ariz.)

My great-grandmother needs me

I was born June 29, 1977, in Olney, Md. My mother was a 15-year-old runaway young girl and my father was 17 years old. My grandmother is Navajo and was a legal aid in 1977. My grandfather is Dutch and was a businessman. I believe my great-grandmother needs me:

My mother is blonde with green eyes and her parents are Irish and English. I'm trying to find my family and I've been searching all my life. I recently was given my adoption information and this is what I have to go on. I also carry the scar on my right hip from hip surgery at birth.

My great-grandmother lives on the reservation and my grandmother would live about four hours away. She needs my help.

My contact information is Facebook, Brandon DC Palmer, or cell number 301-509-4919. Please, if anyone knows her, she would be in her early 60s, my father only 53 years old, and I'm 36.

Brandon W. Palmer
Gaithersburg, Md.

Back to top ^