I'm attempting to understand why some of the descendants of the people Christopher Columbus called "Indians" say they are ashamed to be called "redskins".
The only explanation I can think of is they are ashamed that they
are not white or perhaps they are simply ashamed of their heritage.
In the 1950's many black Americans were ashamed of their color. They
tried to bleach their skin and straighten their hair to look more
like white people. In the early sixties someone
discovered a statement abolitionist John Sweat
Rock had made a century earlier. Rock said, "black is
beautiful". Many black Americans recognized that Rock
Black is just as beautiful as white and so is red. Many
white Americans think the complexion of the Navajo, Cherokee
etc. is so much better than theirs that they are willing to
bake themselves in the sun for hours to get their complexion the
same color the Navajo and Cherokee are born with. So why would
those who are born with such a desirable complexion be ashamed?
Over 200 years ago leaders of the Piankeshaw, Osage, Santee Sioux
and Meskwaki nations referred to themselves as "redskins".
The great Shawnee nation leader Tecumseh in his speech
to the Osage nation in 1811 used the terms "red men" and "red
children [of the Great Spirit]". If the original redskins
found the term acceptable, why don't today's redskins? Do
today's redskins think they are unworthy of the name used by their
If people have a negative view of an ethnic group any word used to
describe members of the group will be negative. In 1850, one
of the worst things you could call someone was "Irish".
In northern states they ranked below blacks. On
southern docks they were given jobs too dangerous to risk the
lives of slaves on
There were numerous slurs
for the Irish. For example, blacks often called the Irish
"white [n-word]s". Urban whites used the term "green [ n-word]"
However, people didn't need to use a slur for the Irish
because of the negative attitudes people had about the Irish. This
attitude was most commonly shown in "Help Wanted" signs that
included the phrase "no Irish need apply".
Incidentally, centuries before Andrew Jackson moved the Cherokee to
Oklahoma, the English moved much of the Irish population
from Ireland to North America and the West Indies.
The words "redskin" and "Irish" don't have any inherently negative
implications as is the case with the n-word and the word
"native". Using the word "redskins" provides a
unique one word name for the peoples of the various North American
Using color to distinguish one group of Americans from another
implies the differences between them are only cosmetic and members
of one group are not inherently better than members of the other
Using the word "Indian" for redskins requires adding the
adjective "American" to distinguish them from the residents of
Using the word "native" requires adding the word "American" to
distinguish them from all the different groups of peoples around the
world called "native". In old movies and television shows the
term "native" was used for unnamed primitive original residents of
the areas white people were visiting or had taken over. The
castaways on the "Gilligan's Island" television show were
occasionally visited by "natives" from other islands.
The Irish didn't let slurs and mistreatment keep them
down. They persevered and made "Irish" a respected name.
In 1968, James Brown released his most important song "Say
it Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud". It became the
theme song for the black power movement.
Redskins nee d to take similar pride in their
complexions. They need to tell everyone they are proud
their skin is "red".
The old leaders who called themselves "redskins" stood up to the
white man. Native Americans take orders from whites.
Redskins were free and independent people. Native
Americans often live on reservations overseen by the government.
The leaders who called themselves "redskins" were self reliant and
self confident. Native Americans often appear to lack self