How the "Redskins" debate goes over on an actual Indian reservation

I’m not Native American — I’m a white guy from Massachusetts — but I live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, so I decided to do my own informal study. I asked 50 people on and around the reservation a simple question: If it were up to you and only you, would the Redskins change their name?

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Twenty-one people said yes. That’s 42%, well above the proportion Annenberg found. But that means 29 said no, which surprised me. To use the common analogy, I’m guessing that 58% of randomly selected strangers from my previous neighborhood — the South Bronx — wouldn’t be quite so tolerant of a team named the Washington Brownskins. While it’s not true that the “Redskins” controversy is entirely a creation of politically correct white liberals — the Oneida Nation of New York is running a season-long protest campaign against Washington’s NFL squad, while advocacy groups like the National Congress of American Indians have been active on the issue of Native American nicknames and mascots since at least the 1960s — it’s also undeniable that Natives don’t always see “Redskins” and other nicknames as an insult that needs to be addressed immediately. In this part of the country, the Standing Rock reservation has denounced the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux mascot, but the state’s Spirit Lake Reservation supports it. Why such mixed reactions to an issue that, to many outside parties, seems like a no-brainer?

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“I don’t really worry about it,” said Elaine YellowHorse, a college student and EMT on the reservation, told me. “There are just so many other things that I need to worry about before that.”

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