Jaron Noisy Hawk is the president of GW’s Native American Student Association.
In recent weeks, the controversy over the Washington Redskins’ name has turned heads in D.C. and around the country. In a nation that espouses the freedom, equality and basic human rights of its citizens, I find it ironic that the District’s football team has continued to use a racial epithet that only serves to prolong the painful history of subjugation of a segment of this country’s populace.
Keeping the Native American namesake and streamlined image of a Native American as a logo is greatly detrimental to our identity. I know this first-hand, both as the president of GW’s Native American Student Association President, and as a full blood Oglala Lakota Sioux, the very people that the team’s logo and name commercializes.
The argument is often made that the team’s name and logo are in honor of Native Americans. In recent years though, the use of the team’s logo and name have become an assault on our culture. It’s a rich Native American culture that is still recovering from oppression by the U.S. government up to the 1980’s and now arguably today through the vast commercialization of my people.
Being Native American in the 21st century is difficult because of the constant stereotypes I confront on a daily basis, enmeshed in people’s minds through media and imagery such as that of the Washington Redskins or other Hollywood depictions of Native Americans. With each defacement of these effigies – be it at the hands of the team’s opponents or not – it is felt as a personal attack against myself and my people. This sentiment is no doubt shared between anyone of an indigenous background.
Of all places, our university and its diverse community of faculty and students should take a stance against the blatant for-profit misappropriation of the first Americans.