Poll: 90% Of Natives Not Offended By Redskins Name

| by Nik Bonopartis
A Washington Redskins play against the Houston Texans.A Washington Redskins play against the Houston Texans.

Dozens of newspapers won't use the team's name, the U.S. government has refused the franchise a trademark, and there's been no end to the hand-wringing or think pieces about its offensiveness.

And yet the vast majority of people who have Native American ancestry say they're not offended by the Washington Redskins' name, according to a Washington Post poll released on May 19.

Nine out of 10 Native Americans told the newspaper the name doesn't bother them; only 9 percent said they found the name offensive. The poll reached 504 Native Americans across every U.S. state, and, according to the newspaper, the responses "were broadly consistent regardless of age, income, education, political party or proximity to reservations."

Washington Redskins team owner Daniel Snyder trumpeted the survey as proof that the name isn't as controversial as some people insist it is.

"The Washington Redskins team, our fans and community have always believed our name represents honor, respect and pride," Snyder wrote in a statement, according to the Post.

"Today’s Washington Post polling shows Native Americans agree. We are gratified by this overwhelming support from the Native American community, and the team will proudly carry the Redskins name."

The new study closely mirrors the results of a 2004 study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center. That survey, which polled 768 Native Americans, produced almost identical results -- like the Washington Post survey, 90 percent of respondents said the name did not bother them, while only 9 percent told surveyors they found it offensive.

The study probably won't sit well with critics, like a team of law students at the American University College of Law who wrote a 2014 editorial arguing that the Annenberg survey should be ignored. That editorial questioned the study's methodology, argued that the respondents weren't socially aware, and criticized the lack of detailed information about the respondents' tribal affiliation and heritage.

"The survey in question was, well, questionable. Big time," the law students wrote. " ... It’s past time that we stopped taking this survey seriously as an authority on the subject."

The Washington Post survey also asked respondents if the name "redskin" itself is offensive in any context. Twenty-one percent said it's disrespectful to Native Americans, while 73 percent said it was not. Another 80 percent of people who responded said they wouldn't feel personally offended if a non-Native American called them a redskin; only 17 percent said they would be offended.

The survey hasn't convinced some critics, like Suzan Harjo, who is suing the Redskins to prevent them from obtaining a trademark.

"I just reject the results," Harjo, 70, told the Post. "I don’t agree with them, and I don’t agree that this is valid way of surveying public opinion in Indian Country."

But others told the newspaper they embrace the name.

"I’m proud of being Native American and of the Redskins," Barbara Bruce, a Chippewa teacher, said. "I’m not ashamed of that at all. I like that name."

Sources: Washington Post (2), American University Washington College of Law / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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