The following is my opinion about the controversy that has erupted because Ian Campeau (of A Tribe Called Red) made a completely reasonable request that the Nepean Redskins change their racist name. I speak for no one else but myself. My thoughts are directed at First Nations and other Aboriginal individuals whose views on racism are contrary to mine. These people do not know my heart, what gives it joy nor what brings sadness into it. It troubles me that someone outside of myself, would think they know my mind when they really know nothing of my life or my experiences of life.
Do I believe the word “Redskins” to be racist? I most certainly do!
Back in the day, I’ve been called a “dirty redskin” and a “fuckin’ redskin”. I heard racist people tell tales of encounters they had with “a drunken redskin” or with “wild redskins”. The names I was called and the stories I heard connected to the word “redskins” were not meant to flatter or to bring a friendly, brotherly chuckle. They were directed at me in the hope of bringing pain and shame into my heart only because I was Anishinabe. If you are of First Nations blood and have never been called a redskin by a bigot, then good for you. Your good fortune however, does not give you the right to tell the world that because “you” are not offended at being called a “redskin”, then neither should I be. I did not ask you to speak for me. You might not give any more of a hoot to my view or opinion regarding what constitutes racism for me than the man who first named a sports team “Redskins” did for the opinion of the Aboriginal people of that time. He just didn’t give a damn what their views were and it saddens me that your stand appears to hold the same grain.
Does the word “squaw” offend you? It is an ugly word and it offends me too. Guess what! There are Aboriginal people living in our community who are not offended by it. Tactics of assimilation used against us were pretty vile and vicious, some of us were overcome. Does this mean the rest of us have to tolerate the word “squaw” being directed at our women? If the answer is “yes” for you, then you need to know it is an unequivocal, absolute “NO” for me!
The first sports team owner who chose the word “Redskins” as the moniker his players would carry into the field of battle did not respect the Aboriginal People of this land. Keep in mind that at the time it occurred we had yet to be given the sacred right to vote, we still had to apply to a white man for permission to leave the rez, the list goes on and on, not signs for sure that society was in “respect” of us as Peoples. The team owner of the day gave his team the name “Redskins” because the belief of mainstream citizens living in those times was that we were a cunning, ferocious and brutal people. You know, much in the same way a lion or tiger or other ‘bad’ animal is when bringing down their prey.
I am against the word “Redskins” as a name for any sports team. I believe it is racist. But even if I did not see the name as such I would still feel duty-bound as a member of a First Nations community to support the stand of those in my community who felt the name was offensive to them. Whatever sensible reasons they had for feeling as they did would be good enough for me.
The blade of racism cuts deep. It has cost me much over the course of my life. I will not sit idly by and watch my children suffer mental and emotional pain because a racist society flaunts their indignation towards them even at a football field supposedly built for the benefit of all communities who make this country great. If someone reading this is keeping a tally, sign me up as a protester.
UPDATE: On 19 September, the Nepean Redskins announced they will change their name at the end of this season. Congratulations to Ian Campeau and everyone who helped achieve this! And I am glad the Nepean team’s management has chosen to do the right thing.