Local Native Americans sound off on Redskins’ name

WASHINGTON – Long before Washington Redskins legends Art Monk and Darrell Green spoke out this week about the team name, area Native American leaders have been demanding that it be changed.

“Look up the word ‘Redskins,’ it’s a racial slur for North American Indians,” said Billy Redwing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation, an indigenous people of the Chesapeake Bay region, including parts of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

“It is derogatory,” says Mervyn Savoy, chairwoman of the Piscataway-Canoy Tribe, an Indian tribe native to Maryland.

For three decades, Tayac and Savoy have been trying to persuade the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name. Both say they had meetings with the team’s previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke, to no avail and both say that the current owner, Daniel Snyder, has refused to meet with them.

Tayac, of La Plata, Md., minces no words in his opposition to the team name.

“I’ve never seen a team called the Los Angeles Spics or the Pittsburgh Polacks. C’mon … it isn’t an even playing ground here and everybody knows it,” Tayac says.

Tayac, who works at a Southern Maryland furniture store, complains that he sees Redskins team images everywhere he turns — from T-shirts and ball caps to mailboxes and car bumpers — and he’s offended.

“We are human beings, that’s what we are and that’s what people have got to realize. We’re not a vanishing race. It’s a race of very strong people,” he says.

He said he believes he knows why the team won’t change the name.

“It’s all about money, sir, that’s what it’s all about. Money,” he says.

Savoy, of Indian Head, Md., is a retired resource teacher who taught Piscataway Indian history for 37 years in Charles County Public Schools. She said she despises the team name.

“I see no honor in them using a derogatory term. We aren’t allowed to use it for any other group,” she says.

Disappointed that team owner Snyder has refused his entreaty to meet, Tayac says if he had the chance, he would ask Snyder to change the name.

“This name should be changed. It’s a racial slur, it’s very, very offensive to Indian people,” he says.

Savoy points out that the Redskins have failed to win a championship since the team changed hands from Cooke to Snyder.

“I refer to them as the Washington Deadskins,” she says.

“Dan Snyder took over, they haven’t done anything.”

While the Washington Redskins have expressed the determination to keep the team’s name, which it has had since the Boston Redskins moved to Washington in 1937, Savoy suggests perhaps the team could be motivated by a different reason.

“Change the name, maybe you might come back and get some luck,” she adds.

The Redskins have not responded to WTOP emails requesting comment.

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