The Paw Paw Michigan Redskins Name Vote - Media Has Not Provided Residents the Whole Story
As the town of Paw Paw Michigan makes ready to vote to continue the use of their High School’s Redskin brand, the vast majority of local "news" coverage has focused on a what communication scholars call "Horse Race Journalism" where journalist tend to favor a shallow, more protracted version to keep readers engaged versus the kind of in-depth irrefutable works which would put an end to a debate once and for all.
The sage words of Mark Twain help set this expose' in motion, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.” It is Twain’s “[R]ight kind of advertising” which has propelled the movement of stripping schools of their Redskin’s names since it began in the lead up to the 2012 Presidential elections.
It is then that the Redskins primary national antagonist, controversial “native” casino mogul Ray Halbritter, began making trips to the White House, making Democrat Party donations and attacking “Redskins”-named High Schools in earnest.
But Mr. Halbritter's name, notably, was not found in any local T.V. or print sources covering the Paw Paw's name sake story.
Why wouldn't the local media disclose Halbritter's role as the mover, shaker and money maker behind the national anti-name movement?
At least one Congressman has been instrumental in documenting Halbritter's malfeasance and other key references have been easy to find. For starters, New York's native Oneida Nation - the tribe that Halbritter claims to be a member of - vociferously do not claim him.
In fact, they requested an judge's injunction ordering federal agencies to recognize the removal of Halbritter from their tribe. Other records show that he has run an "abusive tribal government" while using swindled funds to back the anti-Redskin's movement which has been is described as a '"civil rights” charade" which has found its way to Paw Paw.
Beyond the questionable background, it was the suddenness in his igniting his anti-Redskin campaign, which caught the attention of Front Page Magazine who wrote: “Ray Halbritter is suddenly everywhere, giving interviews denouncing the Washington based team, even though his own base is in New York.”
One of the first schools to fall to Halbritter was Maine’s Wiscasset Redskins where, despite the residents voting 503-128 against a sudden name change, the school board inexplicably voted against their town’s desires. This inexplicable action against its citizens left the town wondering why a vote was even held if the outcome wouldn’t be honored.
Figure 1 Ray Halbritter burst into the anti-Redskin scene in the run up to the 2012 Presidential election. Early in his campaign, he was known to offer cash in coordination with activist's pressure, to have schools eradicate their Redskin name. Notable, however, is the fact that Native American Redskin schools do not suffer the same pressures from Halbritter's groups who are known to cite "cultural appropriation" as one of their primary reasons to attack non-native schools.
The attack “blueprint” has been well documented around the nation where, early on, Redskin’s school boards were overwhelmed by a well-planned, coached and funded activist group. His effort, even include High School pressure by the Obama Administration officials.
Figure 2 The non-governmental NCAI allows anyone to pay-to-join organization and, ironically, uses a Native Warrior head dressed mascot while, simultaneously, objecting to others doing the same. Activists use the NCAI as an example of an "organization" which opposes the Redskins but often fail to mention it was a one-time NCAI President who gave the native-approved Redskins profile of Chief Two Guns White Calf to the NFL as a gift in hopes of encouraging greater understanding and respect for Native America.
But not every Redskin school board surrendered at the first sign of trouble.
With just a little education, high school students and their Redskin communities have - more often - stood their ground in beating back the rowdy name-changers and forcing them to simply 'move along' to the next targeted school.
In Mcloud, Oklahoma, a town without a Halbritter-connected casino, the anti-name campaign stumbled as locals pushed back.
One native Redskin supporter claimed, “An outside voice (Halbritter) does not speak for our (local) native community. We are not being manipulated by others; we're speaking out our own opinions. Not a single member of our tribal club find the Redskin name offensive. We find the Redskin name ... an honor.”
Another, a tribal representative, said Redskins as not derogatory but that “It's in reference to the paint that we used ... We painted ourselves with red paint. It's written down by a linguist, a famous linguist and one of my heroes, Ives Goddard, who talked about how the term started out as what we called ourselves. Redskin was not something that colonizers gave to us. We took that name, and it was translated.”
Likewise strategic thinkers at other schools have prevailed in Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
None of these campaigns, however, have been as aggressive as they’ve been in Paw Paw Michigan.
For instance, the native casino industry had not - until now - openly pledged to pay a school board. But this money move pales in comparison to what some of the ‘hate’ campaign’s adults have been videotaped literally ‘hunting down’ Paw Paw High School students to harass them.
In the video, proudly promoted on the activist’s web site, viewers were treated to announced, pre-meditated student bullying and intimidation.
Even a Native American high school student received the same well-rehearsed ‘hate' script (Find @ 3:55), which included a diatribe against the student’s own tribe, which apparently had not cooperated with the activists.
She also attacked Christianity (Find @ 1:54); threatened to hit people (Find @ 3:22); and attacked the National Anthem (Find @ 6:15) claiming "it is not for my people" - leaving one to wonder if she's actually abdicated her citizenship?
Apparently not finished with just attacking students, this same activist was invited to the High School where she brought the same claims, offensive signs and spoke to the school board alongside the same child she used as a prop in the video.
While the original 27 minute video - edited down to less than 8 - has been widely circulated in the Paw Paw region, not one local media outlet followed up on the student bullying or veracity of the claims she made.
Figure 3 This is the same activists who appears in a video (linked in a paragraph above) where Paw Paw students were bullied and intimidated. She is, notably, friends with ESPN Social Justice writer Mike Wise, who attempted to make the claim that the anti-name movement as is playing out in Paw Paw is bottom-up and organic – not a formal or funded top-down effort.
Also notable is that the local media has failed to connect the well-known Redskin antagonist Washington Post's Mike Wise's to this activist - as they are Facebook friends - which clearly connects her to the well-coordinated national campaign.
It's important for Paw Paw to know that Wise says schools like Paw Paw need to change because other, “…high schools in double-digit numbers changing their names in just the past two years.”
This 'reason' is called an 'Argumentum ad Populum' fallacy - which is Latin for ‘Everyone else is doing it so it must be ok’. This exact same 'group think' logic has been on of the key arguments levied to the Paw Paw school board.
Along with the Argumentum ad Populum fallacy - Wise pushes a non-sequitur that the movement at Paw Paw “… has evolved organically” and that - this is even worse - it’s “… not a top-down strategy”.
Clearly, once you simply look, you see it is a top down strategy and it's not organic as proven by the wide margin of residents and students who wish to keep their name in EVERY TOWN attacked.
But the native casino industry is not the only sponsor. A second funding source is a European-based struggling shoe company; one which had lost significant market share to rival Nike. Adidas began its own anti-Redskins campaign in 2015 to win shoe/uniform contracts to schools like Paw Paw. Adidas offers cash up front if schools agree to change their native names.
Ironically however, Adidas fell into a PR nightmare when it was discovered that the company's namesake founder "Adi", was not only a prominent Nazi, but was a provider of WWII German Army boots. This important bit of reporting has also seemed to escape the local media's attention.
But despite this well-funded, top down, non-organic campaign (sorry Mike Wise), most of the Paw Paw students, parents and businesses are fighting back -- as any Redskin Warrior would.
Figure 3 Businesses from around Paw Paw courageously stood up the Halbritter activists and supported their First Amendment Rights. In response, the activists vowed revenge and launched a national boycott. The local news seems to have not covered this important aspect of the story.
Some Paw Paw residents sought answers from their own High School’s library. And within the time it takes to lose $100 in $5 chips at the native Fire-Keepers Casino, two school leaders found several reference books highlighting Redskins fact.
In cite after cite, they were able to identify that Redskins specifically – like the warrior on their school’s logo and in line with the native leaders in Oklahoma - simply referrers to a native warrior who was painted red in preparation for battle or for spiritual reasons.
“The books were right there all the time,” said Kim Jones, the Vice President of the community group Concerned Citizens of Paw Paw. “How this continues to be an issue is beyond me,” she lamented noting that many of the dozen or so books on the topic hadn’t been checked out for years. “But now we know that we’re absolutely right to fight these outsiders,” she added. No evidence was found that hinted that Redskins meant anything else – not even bloody scalps as activists would have everyone believe.
Figure 4 One of the many reference books found in the Paw Paw High School library which describes Redskin as a red painted warrior; just as it is represented in a logo format the school itself. Below is a set of Redskins photos from a book found in another library.
Like what had happened at Paw Paw, more regular Americans are become familiar with the facts and lies surrounding the anti-name movement and it is – more and more - becoming seen as hallow, unjust or even as a joke in the mainstream.
Long time Redskin name antagonist, senior Washington Post writer Robert McCartney, decided to drop his editorial campaign against the name after he too ultimately lost faith in Halbritter’s frothy yet baseless campaign.
““Many of us thought we were defending a group that needed support. But it feels presumptuous for us to say we know Indians’ interests better than they do.” He went on to argue that campaign should be dropped and to really help, “we should instead advocate for better schools, job opportunities and social services for them.””
Moreover, key psychological “findings” used to bolster the change campaign have come under of intense scrutiny to the extent that - among other weaknesses - the non-representative test sample used did not even consider schools like Paw Paw, which was already using native names and themes.
Just this week a Washington D.C. area law firm threatened a Federal Lawsuit against a new Massachusetts bill seeking to illegally ban the state’s numerous native named schools. And, among those natives who fear losing their 6,000 year old Redskin identity or having it sullied, they rose up to produce and file a well-researched Federal Amicus Brief to defend against Halbritter’s movement in court.
In March the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s 2004 Redskins survey finding that only 9 of 100 Native Americans took issue with the Redskins name was again validated when the Washington Post published an even more stringent, in-depth study into how natives feel about the Redskin name.
In both cases - the only valid survey work done on this issue - only 9 out of 100 natives took issue with the name. And, among this nine percent, many natives were simply concerned that Redskins would be used with respect, not that the name shouldn’t be used.
Clearly twelve years of efforts to impugn the name by politically motivated campaigns have had zero impact among those who were supposed to have been offended.
And, as has been the case of "Horse Race" reporting, no local outlets have been found to have used these surveys despite being cited at several public meetings and used specifically in a television interview where the details were edited out before broadcasting.
And, as is the growing case nationally, the Washington Post confirmed that many natives greatly resented the Halbritter-backed activists attacking their honored Redskin name.
'“It’s 100 people okay with the situation, and one person has a problem with it, and all of a sudden everyone has to conform,”' said New York resident Judy Ann Joyner, 64 who is part-Shawnee and part-Wyandot. '“You’ll find people who don’t like puppies and kittens and Santa Claus. It doesn’t mean we’re going to wipe them off the face of the earth.”'
Dakota Sioux book author Eunice Davidson is also quite frustrated with the Halbritter movement claiming, “If these protesters were actually serious about removing an offensive part of native history, they would have already been educating the students and school board about the name of Van Buren where his courthouse is just down the street from the high school.
Figure 5 Paw Paw' High School is situated in a county is named after Martin Van Buren who is famous, in part, for the hostile and deadly policies towards Native Americans he helped pass. The image and story here are from Indian Country Today, a paper founded by Ray Halbritter, which showcases that the Paw Paw activists would have known Van Buren to be a realistic target not the Redskin Warrior image at the high school. Court officials confirm that there are no records of Halbritter's protesters ever requesting a name change or protesting there.
"Apparently they’ve given a pass to Mr. Van Buren, a man who promoted and helped pass the catastrophic Trail of Tears legislation,” said Davidson the immediate past President of the Native American Guardians Association who spoke at Paw Paw last month.
“There’s no casino or shoemaker's money behind attacking a real, well-known problem... instead these activists seem to be only doing what they’re told to do... or paid to do,” she added.
And, like Davidson, Joyner and the other 9 out of 10 natives who have gone on the record to reject this unjustified anti-Redskin movement, the same attitude is gaining momentum outside of native circles and moving into the larger cultural ‘main stream’.
Students in Lancaster, N.Y., stripped of their Redskins name in 2014 despite the overwhelming community support to keep it, struck out against the school board in a massive protest where they bolted out of school and spilled into the streets.
The stunned parents rose up as well after being forced to accept a new logo of a man in armor, rallied and voted out every up for re-election school board member. According to residents polled just this week, the wounds of their community loss have not healed.
On a larger scale, Bill Maher the liberal host of HBO’s Real Time - a show which generates upwards of 5 million viewers, just last month labeled anti-Redskins campaigners “self-involved fools” who were ‘too busy attempting to police our language’ to notice what was really going on.
Maher went on to excoriate the primary notion wielded by the anti-name force – that “cultural appropriation” is an argument inherently anti-American; mocking them... “How dare you mix and match cultures to produce something new; where do you think you are [in] some kind of melting pot?”
As Maher decries the strength of our nation’s “melting pot”, it’s worth note that this same sentiment appears on the Michigan flag contained the Latin phrase “E Pluribus Unum” or “From Many We are One”.
And, as many natives believe in 'signs' from their Creator will appear when difficult decisions are at hand, it’s hard to miss the second clear message also found in the state flag -- just below the fist.
It reads “Tuebor”... in Latin “I will defend”. Thus sets up the greatest question to date, will students, parents, businesses and vast majority of Native Americans indeed be "defended" against Halbritter's campaign?
The seven member school board will vote on Wednesday, February 8th. Check back for live stream information.