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There is also debate over whether the name itself is derogatory, Tanick said.
The group is also threatening to sue media outlets that use the name in print or broadcast, but until the team name is actually changed, it’s unlikely to influence the media.
As for the argument that some Indians either don’t care about the issue or are not offended by the nickname, Yelsey said that indigenous cultures sometimes “run parallel to ours. Many people in indigenous cultures will pay no attention to what happens outside that culture, and so they don’t care,” he said.
One Menominee Indian who does care is Richie Plass, who is part of the group pressuring the Vikings to ban the name.
Plass said the name refers to bounties on Indians when pioneers settled the country. Europeans scalped Indians in exchange for money, and the name comes from “the blood running down the faces and bodies of my ancestors,” he said.
Plass has no doubt the name is a slur, and he’s backed up by the dictionary. The current edition of the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines “redskin” as an “American Indian” and says the label is “usually offensive.”
That’s not recent political correctness. Mother Jones magazine recently reported that the dictionary’s 1898 edition cited the word as “often contemptuous.”
Plass said he has fought against Indian mascot names for 40 years, but sees a real possibility that attitudes finally are changing. That’s partly because a number of high-profile sports columnists and broadcasters have taken a stand on the issue, Plass said.
Plass doesn’t buy Snyder’s claim that the name “honors” Indians.
“If you want to honor me, come to my house and have some chili and fry bread and tell me stories, that’s honor,” said Plass. “Don’t put on chicken feathers and dance at a football game.”
“Our regalia looks nothing like what they wear,” said Chaboyea, who makes traditional clothing and beadwork and dances in powwows. “I would know. We are real people.”
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