Some Native Americans want more than a name change from Washington commanders

After several decades and generations, Native Americans can claim victory in the fight against NFL stereotypes.

After several decades and generations, Native Americans can claim victory in the fight against NFL stereotypes.

Today, the Washington football team – previously known by an extremely offensive name – has become “The Commanders”.

Crystal Echo Hawk calls it “a victory against racism.”



Echo Hawk is the founder of IllumiNative, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing the nation’s deep-rooted views of Indigenous Nations and Native Americans.

This change “is a first step,” she says, because there is so much damage to fix and so much healing to do.

Brandon Yellowbird Stevens agrees. He said he believed the indigenous peoples of the continents are victims of a narrow and derogatory view of their lives and their history. as many Indigenous communities thrive and succeed. He and Echo Hawk want to celebrate those positive images instead of perpetuating the negative ones.

Yellowbird Stevens explains that some people’s views of Native Americans are “stuck in a moment,” like when the West was one.

He says the era of John Wayne movies always portrayed cowboys and settlers as good guys – and his people as bad. Even today, he said he thinks many Americans don’t understand what really happened as Manifest Destiny displaced and killed so many of his ancestors.

The Oneida Nation man and Crystal Echo Hawk believe the name change is just one act to address hundreds of years of disrespect and inequality. And even though the fight for it began in the 1960s, Yellowbird Stevens says it has been given a serious boost by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Echo Hawk also calls it “a new chapter”. But she wants the football team to work to fix “the harm it perpetuated by having a dictionary defined as a racial slur” for a name. And she also wants him to acknowledge “the hurt he caused Native Americans for so long.”

Yellowbird Stevens was part of the committee responsible for choosing the new name. And yet, he says it won’t mean much without a follow-up. It starts with education.

He says that if we change school systems and what they teach, “we will have students who will be voters” and who will be part of school boards and legislatures.

And if they learned the honest story, Yellowbird Stevens said they would understand that “the marginalization of Native communities in a stereotypical sports image” does not do justice to Native American communities.

However, as far as he is concerned, sports leagues like the NFL and MLB still have a long way to go in improving the image of Native Americans due to the use of names like the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Braves. Atlanta.

In Yellowbird Stevens’ opinion, these names allow schools across the country with racist mascots or logos to keep them because these leagues continue to adopt them.

Echo Hawk hopes Washington commanders will build on this first step. She says he now has the “opportunity to really share his story and help take down all the Native American mascots in sports.”

She also said the team should apologize publicly because saying you’re sorry behind closed doors is not the same as saying it in front of the public.

Nohemi M. Moore