MINNEAPOLIS - Another salvo was fired Tuesday in the ongoing effort by Native American activists to force a name change for the Washington Redskins NFL franchise.
The American Indian Movement's Clyde Bellecourt, 77, has been leading the protest in Minnesota leading up to Thursday's game at the Metrodome against the Minnesota Vikings.
Bellecourt, joined by Former Minnesota Viking Joey Browner and Rep. Betty McCollum, called on Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change the team logo and mascot, something Snyder has refused to do in the past.
"It is probably one of the derogatory words in American history," said Bellecourt. "The word, redskins, referred to when they were scalping Indian people."
Bellecourt, speaking at a seminar on Tuesday in the University of Minnesota's Coffman Union, referred to the 19th century practice of attempts to eradicate Native Americans from western territories, including the State of Minnesota. Federal authorities paid a bounty for proof of a slain Indian. Usually, only a portion of bloody skin was used as the proof.
Browner, who is part Cherokee, Seminole and Blackfoot, played against the Redskins for many years during his career in the NFL. He said the name was offensive to him.
"Yes, it bothered me," said Browner, "because for my mother's, mother's, mother and my father's, father's, father to be actually hunted down, really hunted down for their scalp."
Browner said he kept silent about his feelings while on the Vikings.
"The brand name of the opposing teams, you cannot, when you are under contract, you cannot really say anything about it."
McCollum, who is co-chair of the Native American Caucus in the House of Representatives, said the Redskins "just need to change the mascot. I cannot sit by on the sidelines and not speak up."
Bellecourt was a protestor outside the Metrodome during the 1992 Superbowl, which pitted Washington against the Buffalo Bills. He also protested the Atlanta Braves mascot and logo during the 1991 World Series.
The American Indian Movement is planning a protest before the Vikings and Redskins game on Thursday evening at Mall of America Field.
The group will gather at AIM National Office at 1113 E. Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis at 4:30 p.m., march to stadium at 5:30 p.m. and stage a 6 p.m. rally outside the stadium. Kickoff is just after 7 p.m.
Bellecourt tried to get the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission to ban the Redskins logo from Thursday's game with the Vikings; however, the Commission declined his request.
Bellecourt insists that no polls show Native Americans in favor of the Redskins name. However, an Associated Press poll in May indicated that four out of five Americans favored keeping the Redskins name.
A recent Oneida Indian Nation poll indicated that 59 percent of Washington, D.C. residents agreed that people in their city would have a right to be offended if called a redskin.
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