Skewed Statistics & White Guilt: How NAGA Scammed 100k People

Skewed Statistics & White Guilt: How NAGA Scammed 100k People

Skewed Statistics & White Guilt: How NAGA Scammed 100k People

Lately, the Native American Guardians Association (NAGA) has been gaining nationwide attention for securing over 90,000 signatures in a petition to change the Washington Commanders’ team name back to the Redskins. The non-profit organization claims its mission is eradicating misconceptions and educating all Americans about Native culture and history.

However, we at feel this organization is one of several outlets funneling misinformation into the minds of Native and non-Native people. From the statistical evidence to the claim that “redskin” has never been used derogatorily, NAGA’s platform has several shaky declarations that must be addressed (especially if you’re considering signing their petition).

And we’re here to paint a clearer picture. 

Using Native American imagery, tribe names, etc., as mascots has become an increasingly hot topic thanks to NAGA and other similarly-minded platforms. Should schools and professional sports teams be able to call themselves the “Redskins,” “Indians,” or “Tomahawks”?

According to NAGA, the answer is yes. This organization argues the team name “Redskins” represents the “bravery, resilience, and warrior spirit associated with Native American culture.” In fact, NAGA goes as far as to say 90 PERCENT (you read that right) of Native people believe using the word “redskin” isn’t offensive in any way.

Where Did The Word “Redskin” Come From Anyways?

One portion of NAGA’s poorly-designed website is dedicated to the origin and history behind the word “redskin.”

To be fair, the real history behind the word “redskin” is commonly misunderstood amongst Americans everywhere, whether they’re Native or not.

The popular misconception about the word is that colonizers used it to describe the blood dripping down the faces of Indians after scalping them. While scalping certainly happened (we’ll get into that in a little bit), that’s not why this word initially existed.

In actuality, “redskin” was a self-identifier used by Indigenous people to distinguish themselves from people with white or black skin.

That is one detail NAGA got right.

However, this section of the website takes a bizarre turn when it starts presenting a hard-to-interpret argument, testifying that scalping wasn’t really that prevalent. The idea is based on the fact that there are very few existing documents indicating bounties were paid for “redskin scalps.” Additionally, the non-profit points out that the bounties that were recorded belonged to Native Americans who acted hostile towards colonizers (rightfully so, in my opinion).

Just to be clear, white people did create bounties for Native American scalps. Plain and simple.

Starting back in 1641, Willem Keft, the governor of Manhattan, Massachusetts, created laws offering $60 per scalp and money for each Native prisoner sold into slavery. This same unbelievable law gave colonial men the right to enslave and rape Native women and children without reason.

So even if scalping only occurred for a short period with a few tribes, it seems strange that a Native-ran organization would argue scalping wasn’t as terrifying a practice as it was. However, I may be missing something; the argument was tough to follow.

While NAGA almost created a valid argument supporting their cause, there are still several holes. The statement arguing scalping wasn’t a rampant issue when colonizers came to North America is faulty.

White men were certainly creating laws that really only benefited them (still applicable) and forcing Indigenous people into slavery while offering money for evidence of their deaths. And let’s not forget colonizers killed about 90% of the Indigenous population (55 million people) in their first year in North America.

While I’m forced to agree with NAGA’s point that “redskin” was not originated from colonizers scalping Native people, I can’t condone the statement that the word was “not then nor now a derogatory word.”

Because the word “redskin” has an almost unfathomable derogatory, racist, and downright disrespectful history.

The Unfortunate Transformation of the Word ‘Redskin’

As previously mentioned, one of the factual claims NAGA includes is about the origin of the word “redskin.” Although many people don’t realize it, this word and “red men” were self-identifiers by Native American people.

There are numerous historical documents (translated speeches by Indigenous leaders, colonial records, etc.) indicating Native Americans often used “redskins” to refer to their people. One of the earliest documents containing the word “redskin” is from 1796, when the Piankashaw people negotiated with Col. John Wilkins.

Throughout the 1800s, colonizers began using “redskin” more frequently, especially after Fenimore Cooper used the term in his 1823 novel, “The Pioneers.” Unlike most white people at the time, Cooper portrayed Native American struggles and hardships as accurately and bias-free as he could.

“There will soon be no red-skin in the country, Cooper in ‘The Pioneers.’

Despite Cooper’s compassionate portrayal, pop culture icons of the time soon after began using “redskin” in blatantly racist and disrespectful ways throughout their work.

One of several examples can be found in Frank Baum’s work. Before writing well-known novels like “The Wizard of Oz,” Baum ran a South Dakota-based newspaper. One of the paper’s editorials was dedicated to celebrating the death of Sitting Bull, in which Baum used the word “redskin” in the following derogatory way:

“With his [Sitting Bull’s] fall, the nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them.”

Wait. It gets worse.

In 1915, popular poet Earl Emmons released an aggressively racist collection of poems, songs, and speeches entitled “Redskin Rimes.” The introduction alone is enough to make your stomach turn, as Emmons says any person who views Native Americans as “injured innocent[s]” has “acquired the wrong idea of the maroon brother.”

Although Amazon asks you to “enjoy this valuable book,” it will be nearly impossible if you have an ounce of empathy in your soul. Emmons’ book only gets more racist and blatantly disapproving of Native people with each page.

“Redskin Rimes” was emblematic of using the word “redskins” in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The word quickly transformed from being a self-identifying term to a derogatory slur.

Unbelievably, at this same time, American sports teams began using Indigenous words and images as team symbols and mascots. When changing the names, the organizations claimed it was to express the “Americaness” of the team and their patriotic character.

At a certain point, the word “redskin” became acceptable to use freely in shows, movies, and, of course, sports team names. It seems the part of history where “redskin” was used to degrade and disrespect Native people was forgotten and instead became a way for white people to “honor” Indigenous communities and history.

About That 90% Statistic NAGA Always Brings Up… 

One statistic NAGA and its supporters absolutely LOVE bringing up is that “90% of Native Americans believe a team being called the “Redskins” isn’t racist.” If you’re on their site, NAGA presents this statistic with a not-so-helpful link to The Washington Post Wikipedia page, not the actual study (suss).

But after a little digging, you can find out where this “90%” claim comes from: a 2016 poll by The Washington Post. This poll found that, on average, 9 out of 10 Native Americans don’t see the Redskins name as offensive.

But you have to look closer (i.e., actually read the entire article).

This poll only took into account 504 Native American people, which is less than 1% of the entire population in the United States alone (about 3 million people).

This recognition is infuriating for a couple of reasons.

First, this is one of a million examples of how people are unknowingly misinformed. Some non-Native people want to support Native Americans because of the unbelievable circumstances their people have endured. And NAGA and similar organizations feed these people skewed statistics.

Second, the fact that NAGA has built a movement that’s working primarily based on this misinterpreted statistic is disheartening. Was there a study indicating 90% of Native Americans support the Redskins team name? Yes. But was it a TINY portion of the Native American population? Yes.

And that fails to capture how the majority of Indigenous people actually feel about this issue.

The Essentials: NAGA, The Truth, & Forgotten History 

NAGA’s primary mission is changing pro sports team names back to their original Indigenous-themed mascots (Redskins, Indians, etc.). The non-profit argues that because 90% of Native American people don’t find the title racist, they have reclaimed the word, and it’s now okay to use it as a sports team’s mascot.

NAGA’s website compares Native Americans reclaiming “redskins” to how Black people have reclaimed the N-word or how members of the LGBTQ community have reclaimed words like “queer” or “gay.” But I think there’s a line to be drawn between reclaiming a word and using that same word for a national sports team.

If Native American people are taking the word “redskin” back, go for it. The origin of the word belongs to them anyway. Does that make it okay to model mascots and team images after Indigenous culture? Not in my opinion.

The history of the word “redskin” proves a few things. One, white people are genuine masters at taking words, images, etc., from other cultures and transforming them into having racist meanings (or claiming them as their own). And two, the term “redskin” was used in an insanely damaging, pejorative, and aggressive manner; in no way should it be the name of a sports team.


Disclaimer: I am the head journalist for and receive approval for every article posted on this website. Part of my family’s heritage belongs to the Cherokee tribe. With this website, I aim to help others learn about Native history, culture, and more while discovering details about my family’s past.