I'VE NEVER FELT as powerful and proud of my community as I was while walking down the middle of Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis on a cold evening in November with hundreds of other Native activists and allies. We were marching from the heart of the Minneapolis American Indian community to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome to speak out against the Washington Redsk*ns mascot.
Hundreds of American Indians and allies rallied outside the Metrodome to demand that Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington professional football team, change the team’s name and mascot in spite of Snyder’s dissent. The owner’s unwavering commitment to keeping the Redsk*ns name became evident when earlier this year he stated, “We’ll never change the name. It’s simple. NEVER. You can use caps.”
Standing among supporters and friends, I looked on as the community joined together in drumming, dancing, and singing, with American Indian Movement co-founder Clyde Bellecourt serving as the rally’s emcee. Several local elected leaders addressed the crowd, including U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and the mayor-elect of Minneapolis, Betsy Hodges, days after winning her election for mayor. The two joined an avalanche of elected leaders calling on Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to change the team’s name.
More than 20 years prior, another protest had been held at the Metrodome for Super Bowl XXVI, a game between the Washington Redsk*ns and the Buffalo Bills. That protest included Clyde Bellecourt’s brother, Vernon, leading the charge with Sen. Paul Wellstone, a friend and champion of the American Indian community. Two decades later, the conversation has changed and momentum is on our side. Even President Barack Obama joined the cause in saying, “I’ve got to say, if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team—even if it had a storied history—that was offending a sizeable group of people, I’d think about changing it.”