A “moral victory”.
That’s how a KU law professor, who’s also a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, describes a recent U.S. Patent & Trademark Office ruling that cancels the Washington Redskins’ trademark registration.
Elizabeth Kronk Warner agrees the football team’s name is “disparaging to Native Americans.”
“Individuals who killed American Indians and brought in their skins would be paid a certain bounty for those skins,” Warner said. “And so the term was used in reference to the killing of American Indians in the 19th century.
“Every time I see that name I think that the person who’s displaying it is proudly declaring themselves in support of this historical bounty and this idea that myself or my ancestors could somehow have been killed and that our skins were valuable.”
Warner calls it a “moral victory” because the team can still use the name and is appealing the ruling. A similar ruling from 1999 was overturned on a technicality in 2003.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has vowed to keep the nickname, which dates to 1933.
Warner believes if Americans were familiar with the historical origin of the term Redskins, than they would be offended by its usage. She hopes the ruling leads to a name change for the team, but also hopes it inspires discussion about why only two states, Montana and Maine, require the teaching of modern American Indians as part of their K-12 curriculum.
“For most Americans, it’s almost as if we disappear after the Trail of Tears. Many states have a historical discussion, but they don’t talk about us in terms of modern American society. So I really see this also as a broader opportunity to talk about the role that American Indians should play in the social science curriculum of K-12 in the United States.”
Warner says she even comes across people who didn’t realize Native Americans still existed.
20 Kansas high schools and one Kansas college have Native American inspired mascots. Warner encourages these communities to sit down with area American Indians to discuss the origin of the terms and whether the local tribes support the usage of those terms.