Several months ago, Prince George’s County resident Stephen Dodson reached out to the Washington Redskins in an effort to share his perspective on the team name.
Dodson is a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska, and said he was tired of being spoken for as a Native American.
“People are speaking for Native Americans that aren’t Native American. Being a full-blooded Indian with my whole family behind me, we had a big problem with all the things that were coming out [of the discussion],” he said. “I think they were basically saying that we were offended, our people were offended, and they were misrepresenting the Native American nation.
As the eldest member of his blood line, Dodson represents more than 700 remaining tribe members and talked to Redskins Nation about the positive power of the Redskins’ name.
“It’s actually a term of endearment that we would refer to each other as,” he explained. “When we were on the reservation, we would call each other, ‘Hey, what’s up redskin?’ We would nickname it just ‘skins.’”
“‘Redskin’ isn’t something given to us by the white man or the blue eyes, it was something in the Native American community that was taken from us. [It’s] used also as a term of respect, because that’s how we were. We respected each other with that term.”
Despite being thousands of miles away from his family’s homeland, Dodson said that he has continued living and teaching his family traditions in the greater Washington, D.C. community.
“All of us have a proud history of who we are, and I pass it down to my kids,” he said. “We go to powwows, just the normal things for Native Americans. We don’t just celebrate one nation, we celebrate many.”
Part of that celebration is having a sports team in his adopted area that reflects the pride he feels for his own native culture.
“It is [an honor], it’s a heritage. There’s a lot of respect in it. A great pinnacle part of who we are as a nation has to do with pride and honor. And the Redskin name is that,” he said. “That’s one of the things we use as honor and respect toward each other.
“It’s not degrading in one bit and that’s why I sent you guys an email. It just bothered me that somebody would twist something so negatively when it’s a positive.”
Dodson said he was upset that much of the discussion over the Redskins name was being led by people outside of the Native American community.
“[I am] Irritated. Irritated is a polite term to say,” he said. “When you have people trying to represent our nation, you should be from our nation. Don’t represent our nation if you don’t even have an ounce of blood in you.
“It’s wrong, and it’s going to be stopped as long as I’m on this earth—that’s for sure.”
On a personal note, Chief Dodson confessed that while he was raised to be a Washington Redskins fan by his father, he was in fact a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan.
But he assured viewers that this did not detract from his appreciation for the Washington Redskins organization. If anything, it enhances the sentiment.
“My father was a Redskins fan. He and I had many battles and war parties in the house,” he said with a fond smile. “But to do the right thing is what he raised me to do, and he loved the Redskins.
“I remember when the Redskins won in ’87 and Ronald Reagan threw to the wide receiver [Ricky Sanders], we were there for that. For my father, when they won, it was a huge deal. I’m an Eagles fan, but we have a division in the NFC East that I would call America’s division.”
Chief Dodson took time away from his job as general manager of Charley’s Crane Service, a company that has proudly served Prince George’s County for more than 56 years.
“It’s an in-house joke because I am an Eagles fan, and the guys that work for me are Redskins fans. We have a rule in the company where I can’t even where Eagles gear, because we support the Redskins,” he said. “You have to support what’s in PG County and DC, and that’s what it is.”
In closing, Redskins Nation host Larry Michael reminded Stephen Dodson that the Washington Redskins’ fight song is ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ Even as an Eagles fan, Dodson said he can sing it with pride.
“That’s a respectful thing,” he said. “A lot of people think that’s a gimmick or a joke, a good song, but that’s a respectful thing, and it’s another thing that helps me appreciate everything you’re doing.”