It seems like this entire offseason the Washington Redskins have been defending their name against the media and public in an effort to try and prove it’s not racist
Back in May, the Redskins had a guest on their show Redskins Nation, named Chief Dodson who claimed to be “a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska” who “represents more than 700 remaining tribe members,” via Deadspin.
Dodson came on the program and defended the Redskins by claiming that his people are honored by the Redskins’ name.
“Being a full-blooded Indian with my whole family behind me, we had a big problem with some of the things that were coming out [in the debate over the name],” he said. “I think they were basically saying that we were offended, our people were offended, and they were misrepresenting the Native American nation. We don’t have a problem with [the name] at all—in fact we’re honored. We’re quite honored.”
Dodson claimed that the indians he knows are fine with the term “redskins.”
“It’s actually a term of endearment that we would refer to each other as,” Dodson said. “When we were on the reservation, we’d call each other, ‘Hey, what’s up, redskin?’ We’d nickname it and call each other ‘Skins.’ We respected each other with that term. … It’s not degrading in one bit.”
This is where things get interesting. It turns out that Dodson isn’t 100 percent Native American and isn’t a chief.
Below is a breakdown of Dodson’s true identity by Deadspin.
Alas, there’s a lot of evidence that Chief Dodson—whose real name is Stephen D. Dodson—ain’t the perfect pitchman that Snyder and Goodell want him to be. It turns out that the “full-blooded American Inuit chief” is neither a full-blooded American Inuit nor a chief in any formal sense of the term.
Let’s start with that last part. Apparently nobody but Dodson says Dodson’s really a chief. The work shirt from Charley’s Crane Services that Dodson wore on Redskins Nation had “Chief Dodson” stitched into it alongside the company’s name. But the only references I could find to Dodson and “Chief” that predate his appearance as “Redskin”-lovin’ aboriginal royalty appeared in court records in Maryland. Case files from some of Stephen D. Dodson’s scrapes with the law—involving theft, paternity, and domestic violence matters—have “Chief” listed as one of the defendant’s AKAs.
When Indian Country Today ran a story about the Redskins Nation appearance, a commenter purporting to be Dodson’s relative said that Dodson’s native bona fides had been exaggerated. The commenter said Dodson is not a full-blooded member of any tribe and is in fact one-quarter Aleut, not Inuit. And “Chief”? “[T]hat was his nickname,” the commenter wrote.
Carla Brueshaber, who identified herself as Dodson’s sister, said she had nothing to do with the Indian Country Today comment, but she confirmed that Dodson wasn’t as advertised on the Redskins program. “No, he’s not a chief, not technically. It’s a nickname,” said Brueshaber, now living in Bellefontaine, Ohio, where Dodson went to high school, according to his 2000 wedding announcement in the Morning Call of Allentown, Pa.
Asked why she thought Dodson was being portrayed by the Redskins and the NFL as an authentic Indian chief, Brueshaber said, “Somebody made a mistake and called him [Chief]. The Redskins went full steam ahead with it. They didn’t check it because it was helping them.”
The description of him used by the Redskins—”a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska”—rings false to folks who’ve studied the native peoples of that state.
“That is an archaic and incorrect expression: Aleut people and Inuit people are quite distinct and haven’t had a common ancestor for at least 6,000 years,” says Stephen Loring, an anthropologist with the Smithsonian Institute specializing in Arctic and subarctic archaeology and ethnohistory. “Somebody would say they are Aleut, or they would say they are Inuit.”
The phrase “full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska,” Loring added, is “incorrect terminology. It doesn’t make sense.”
What’s more, both Kelly Eningowuk, executive director of the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska, an Inuit group, and Larry Merculieff, a prominent advocate for Aleut issues in Alaska, said “Chief” isn’t a designation any of their constituents would use now. It certainly wouldn’t be used by someone who’s not living among Inuits or Aleuts. Both said such a title, if granted at all, would be conferred only upon individuals who were elected by people in their village. That would be tough in Bellefontaine (which, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, had a Native American population of 0.2 percent) or Prince George’s County (0.5 percent).
“I don’t know anybody out of state who describes themselves [as a chief],” Merculieff said.
Nor does Dodson’s self-description on the Redskins show as “a full-blooded Indian” pass the smell test.
“Aleuts do not call themselves ‘Indian,'” Merculieff said. “We are native Alaskans, but not Indian.”
“Inuits don’t call themselves ‘Indian,'” said Eningowuk.
Eningowuk said she watched Dodson’s performance online and laughed at some of his references to native culture. “I heard him say that [he and his family] go to pow wows? That’s not Aleut or inuit,” she said. “And he talks about living on a reservation of some sort. There are no Inuit or Aleut reservations in Alaska.”
What of Dodson’s contention that Aleuts and/or Inuits regularly use “redskin” as a term of endearment? “I have never called anybody ‘redskin,'” Eningowuk said. “Nobody I know has ever called me ‘redskin.’ I have never heard any Inuit call somebody ‘redskin.'”
It really doesn’t come as a surprise to me that the Redskins ended up getting exposed in a stunt that ended up back firing on them. This was a typical Dan Snyder move. He tried to make the name of his organization meaningful, when in reality it’s racist and needs to be changed.