Native American School Votes to Keep Redskins Name

Wellpinit Redskins and their Refusal to Change

Deon Rhode

On June 19, 2014, a news report was released on KXLY-Spokane regarding Wellpinit High School in Wellpinit, Washington regarding their school mascot – the beloved Redskins. Amidst the campaigns created aimed towards changing the Washington Redskins name, the school board in Wellpinit voted against changing their mascot, citing that the majority of people asked did not want the name changed.

The school board used the opinions of the people in Wellpinit (found on the Spokane Indian Reservation) as the basis for their decision. James Williams, a Black member of the school board, said: 

“I think it would be more demeaning to them to make them change it. In fact, I wouldn’t want to be on the board if we tried to make them change it.”

So what does this whole situation say about the controversy in general? Wellpinit High is the only school left in the state of Washington that has the Redskins as their mascot – and it’s on an Indian Reservation. Why? Because the people there view the mighty Redskins as a source of pride. It seems as if they would be the FIRST to remove the name if it was “offensive to Native Americans.” In fact, they wouldn’t have the name at all! On the contrary- the article states that the name has been around Wellpinit since 1907- 25 years before the Boston Braves took on the name.

Celia Stearns, a Native American resident of Wellpinit said this in the interview:

“ANY school that uses Redskins as their mascot makes me feel proud. Makes me feel like they think we’re strong people…”

That’s EXACTLY what the spirit behind the name implies. That’s exactly what every sports fan consciously or subconsciously assumes about their respective teams’ mascots. To think that the moniker has somehow disgraced Native Americans is ludicrous. Wellpinit High is definitely not the only school of its kind, and the Spokane Indian Reservation is not the only reservation that bears a population that is mostly in favor of the Redskins’ name.

The Spokane Indian Reservation was officially founded in 1881, with the Spokane Indians living in the region for many decades prior. Surely they would have known in 1907 that the word was historically offensive if that was in fact the origin of the word. On the contrary, they knew the word to be at best a symbol of pride, and at “worst,” a basic adjective. The Oxford Dictionary supports this idea that the word has a neutral history. Where, then, do people get this idea that “Redskins” as a mascot is disparaging? Seriously- nobody is using the word in that sense anymore. The negativity came and went, but the pride has subsisted. With this understanding, why should one attempt to force people to erase a century of tradition- tradition that exceeds the life span of the Washington Redskins? Guilt?

Regardless of where you stand in the Redskins’ name change debate, ask yourself these two questions: 1. “Have I done enough research on the subject to have a solid opinion?” and 2. “Have I truly considered the other side of the argument?”

Let’s consider Wellpinit High’s example (and every other Native American high school that uses the Redskins as their mascot) as well as the true historical value of the word as our guide in the “Change the Name” conversation.


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