GENEVA – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, has called on the owners of the Washington Redskins Football team to consider “the hurtful reminder that the term ‘redskins’ represents of the long history of mistreatment of Native American people in the United States.”
“While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue,” the human rights expert said in an April 11 statement,, “I urge the team owners to consider that the term ‘redskin’ for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession, and that it is understood to be a pejorative and disparaging term that fails to respect and honour the historical and cultural legacy of the Native Americans in the U.S.“
In a 2012 report on the situation of indigenous peoples in the U.S. the Special Rapporteur likewise stressed that “the use of stereotypes obscures understanding of the reality of Native Americans today and instead helps to keep alive racially discriminatory attitudes.”
In that report, he noted that within the U.S. many stereotypes still portray Native Americans as relics of the past, perpetuated by the use of Indian names by professional and other high-profile sports teams, caricatures in the popular media and even mainstream education on history and social studies.
“Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” Mr. Anya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The rights expert further recalled that States must take measures to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.
“Private actors also have responsibilities independently of the States’ obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Mr. Anaya said. “These responsibilities have been outlined most comprehensively in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2011.”