Opinion: Columnists

Redskins critic should know Native Americans had slaves, too

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NFL,Redskins,Gregory Kane,Columnists,Analysis,Native Americans

It’s a controversy that should die, but hasn’t.

Left-wing activists continue their campaign to bust the hump of Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder by insisting that he change the team’s “racist” name.

One of those activists is Glenn Morris, who, according to news reports, is a member of the leadership council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado.

Morris was on hand to protest the Redskins name, along with a crowd he estimated at “a few hundred," when Washington’s team got its scalp handed to it recently by the Denver Broncos.

Oh, I’m sorry: Was that reference to "scalps" politically incorrect?

I’m sure Morris would be offended, representing as he does that portion of the American body politic that make it their business to be offended by just about anything. The name “Redskins” offends Morris because he thinks it’s racist.

“What we did today,” Morris said of the late October protest in Denver, “was part of a larger national movement of native people to put pressure, continue to put pressure, escalating pressure, on the Washington football organization and to emphasize that this kind of racism against native people is not going to stand.”

Then Morris threw down a gauntlet at the feet of the black players on the Redskins’ roster.

“We were saying to them as predominantly African-American players, you should understand the history of this team. And you should understand your own personal role in continuing racism through this team. And we hope that we piqued their conscience and got them to think a little bit about that and their own role in this national debate.”

Morris is absolutely right: The Washington NFL team has an absolutely appalling history when it comes to African-Americans.

Here’s what Morris didn’t say: So do some Native Americans.

Hey, don't kill the messenger. Morris is the one who brought up history, not me. But if we're going to investigate history, let's be thorough about it and reveal history like this, taken from an article on Free Republic:

“By 1860, the Cherokees had 4,600 slaves; the Choctaws, 2,344; the Creeks, 1,532; the Chickasaws, 975; and the Seminoles, 500. Some Indian slave owners were as harsh and cruel as any white slave master. Indians were often hired to catch runaway slaves; in fact, slave catching was a lucrative way of life for some Indians, especially the Chickasaws.”

In 1842, some of those slaves in what was to become the Indian Territory revolted against their Native American masters. That inspires me to cite even more history.

“The Cherokees thought the influence of 'foreign' free blacks had caused the [1842] slave insurrection. On December 2 they passed 'An Act in Regard to Free Negroes' directing that all free blacks, except those whom Cherokees had freed, leave the Cherokee Nation by January 1, 1843, or as soon after as possible. Those who lingered or refused would be expelled. The act targeted the free black Seminoles living in the Cherokee Nation.”

And, finally, what might be regarded as the piece de resistance:

“Cherokee attitudes against free black Seminoles continued [after the Cherokee slave revolt of 1842]. In 1849, tired of harassment from slave catchers, some of the free black Seminoles under black Chief John Horse fled Indian Territory.”

Some Native Americans, like some whites, held slaves. Some Native Americans had anti-black racist attitudes every bit as strong as some white Americans.

And I haven’t even mentioned those Native Americans who eagerly and proudly fought for that slave-holding republic called the Confederate States of America, one of whom, Stand Watie, was the last rebel general to surrender.

The next time Morris presumes to give a history lesson, he might well remember the bit of history cited above.

Gregory Kane, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.
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