Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder doesn’t understand why he should change his team’s name. Many football fans think the outrage is manufactured and that the name should stay. No one is asking those who the team is named after why it is a slap in the face to every person of native heritage in the United States.
In many Native cultures, a person’s hair, especially a man’s hair, was an extension of one’s soul. According to historian James Axtell, “To lose that hair to an enemy was to lose control over one’s life, to become socially and spiritually `dead’, whether biological death resulted or not.”
American Indians weren’t the only people doing the scalping. European settlers performed that act in large numbers. In fact, the height of scalping Indians occurred in the mid-18th century, with written documents by people of all walks of life describing it. One man — a reverend in the local church — described how much money he had received as his share for supplying ammunition and provisions to a scalp-hunting party.
The term “redskin” was the result of Anglo settlers skinning the natives and presenting them to government officials for a fee. Some of those skins were sold to make lampshades and ladies’ gloves made from the skin of dead American Indians. The term “redskin” was used to describe the skin of a dead Indian.
Who knows, maybe a name change will win a game. Until then: the Washington Whitedogs. If you have a problem with that, step up to the plate, we’ll see if you’ve got what it takes. White dog.