WASHINGTON – Questions are being raised about a Maryland man who says he is a Native American chief and was used by the Washington Redskins to defend the team’s name.
The Redskins’ name has been criticized as racist and offensive to Native Americans. But the team has said there are no plans to change it and have featured high schools that use the mascot in its defense.
In another move to highlight those who find no problem with the name, Deadspin’s Dave McKenna reports that Stephen Dodson was introduced as “Chief Dodson” on a May broadcast of the team’s show “Redskins Nation.” Dodson, the team said, approached the Redskins and wanted to share his thoughts on the use of the name because “people were speaking for Native Americans who weren’t Native American.”
Dodson — whom the Redskins identified as “a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska” — said he and other Native Americans were “honored” by the name and have used it as a term of endearment.
“When we were on the reservation, we would call each other, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ We would nickname it just ‘skins,'” he is quoted as saying in a Redskins press release.
Deadspin, however, cites several things that call Dodson’s credentials into question. Among them:
- A woman who identified herself as Dodson’s sister told the site Dodson is not a chief and that the term is only a nickname for him.
- “Chief” is listed as an aka for Dodson in Maryland court records for various legal problems.
- A Smithsonian anthropologist says Aleut people and Inuit people are distinct from each other and the description of Dodson’s heritage doesn’t make sense.
- Both the executive director of an Inuit group and an advocate for Aleut issues in Alaska tell Deadspin “chief” isn’t a title typically used now by either people.
Dodson told McKenna his “chief” title is hard to explain but is legitimate and something he was born into after a shaman chose his father as a chief.
In an interview Friday with WTOP, McKenna said of Dodson: “He’s the only guy that would call himself ‘Chief.'”
McKenna said it’s bizarre that nobody checked Dodson out.
“It shows how marginalized the Native American population is,” McKenna said.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder famously sued the Washington City Paper over a piece written by McKenna in 2010.
The team declined to comment on the issue to WTOP. A WTOP reporter also left a message at the towing company where Dodson works.
Meanwhile, a recent Washington Post poll showed that two-thirds of Washingtonians think the Redskins should not change the team’s name. An Associated Press-GfK poll also found that 79 percent of Americans nationally don’t think the name should change.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Dodson’s first name.
Follow @WTOP on Twitter.