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Red Mesa (AZ) High School, which sits on the nation’s largest Native
American reservation, is proud of its football team, named “The
Redskins.” The name was adopted by the school when one of its earliest
students, Raymond Oldman, proposed it because he was a fan of the
Washington Redskins.

A Washington Post reporter attended a recent game and found the team and its supporters do not believe the name is an ethic slur:

The scene at this tiny, remote high school was as boisterous as it was
remarkable: Nearly everyone on the field and in the bleachers belongs to
the Navajo Nation. Most of the people in Red Mesa not only reject
claims that their team’s nickname is a slur, they have emerged as a
potent symbol in the heated debate over the name of the more widely
known Redskins — Washington’s NFL team. More than half the school’s 220
students eagerly accepted free tickets from the team for an Oct. 12 game
near Phoenix, where they confronted Native American protesters who were
there to condemn Washington’s moniker.

The use of the name Redskins name by the Washington D.C. NFL team has
become a cause célèbre for some Native American activists, lawmakers,
civil rights leaders and sports commentators who have denounced
“Redskins” as deeply offensive (a position rejected by team owner Daniel
Snyder). One of the country’s most prominent anti-Redskins activists,
Amanda Blackhorse, is the lead plaintiff in a legal case that threatens
the Washington Redskins’ trademark protection. Blackhorse is a Navajo
and lives about an hour’s drive from Red Mesa.

There
were 62 high schools in 22 states using the Redskins moniker last year,
according to a project published by the University of Maryland’s
Capital News Service. In addition to Red Mesa, two others are majority
Native American: Wellpinit High School in Washington state and Kingston
High School in Oklahoma.

Outgoing Navajo Nation
President Ben Shelly generated a firestorm at the Washington-Arizona
game by sitting next to Redskin’s owner Snyder and wearing a Redskins
hat.

“Changing a mascot’s name is not going to
produce one job on the Navajo Nation,” said Deswood Tome, Shelly’s
special adviser, noting that the unemployment rate on the country’s
largest Indian reservation is 60 percent.

Red Mesa students
paid little attention to the politics. They loved being at the NFL game,
posing with former Redskins players in photos that turned up on
pro-Redskins Facebook pages, and getting gift cards for popcorn and
pizza.

“I just kept my head down,” said
Kelvin Yazzie, a Red Mesa senior lineman who lives with his
grandparents. “[The protesters] were calling me a sellout.”

His grandfather, Steven Benally, 55, a candidate for the Navajo Nation
Tribal Council, pointed to the jug of water in their kitchen. Because
his wife is a gifted-and-talented teacher at Red Mesa, they get to live
on campus, but they can’t drink the tap water. It has been contaminated
by high levels of arsenic and uranium, and everyone at the school and in
nearby homes must drink bottled water. 

According to the
Washington Post report, the majority of people in the Navajo Nation
believe the name Redskins is a non-issue. Unlike the activists in the
“pc police,” they are worried about clean water and jobs for their
communities.

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