Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Thoughts on Navajo Code Talkers' Endorsement of Redsk*ns Team Name

Navajo Code Talkers being honored at a Washington Redsk*ns game in November 2013.

I've had the good fortune of being asked to be an editor at The Good Man Project a site I've been admiring for some time now. Joanna Schroeder the Executive Editor brought me on and I am so excited to share the work of Native writers and thinkers with a larger audience.

Here is my first longer piece for them about the recent endorsement by the Navajo Code Talkers Association of the Washington Redsk*ns team name. An unfortunate and sad chapter for the venerable association.

When I saw Peter MacDonald on television, still looking dapper and handsome at age 85 in a jaunty red scarf and Navajo Code Talker yellow velvet shirt standing on the sidelines of the Washington Redsk*ns game the week of Thanksgiving I was shocked, but not surprised. He was with three other Navajo Code Talkers, and yet in all the mainstream press coverage of the event no one mentioned he was the former Navajo Nation Chairman, serving an unprecedented four terms from 1971 to 1989 before being convicted on federal racketeering and fraud charges. “Big Mac” as he was known on the Navajo Nation, spent 8 years in federal prison before finally receiving a pardon by President Clinton in 2001. Recently, news has come out that he may have acted unethically in his role as President of the Navajo Code Talkers Association; closing bank accounts, passing Resolutions that place all power with himself in meetings and endorsing the Washington Redsk*ns name in a meeting where only 7 of the 40 living Code Talkers were present.
He was our Navajo Nixon, and was once again in the national news and yet, I was amazed that the same publications–like the New York Times–who once covered his every move as Navajo Nation Chairman, seemed to have completely forgotten who he was. In every media mention he was described only as the Navajo Code Talkers Association President and nothing more.
Family members of the Code Talkers are outraged. Ron Kinsel, son of Code Talker John Kinsel, told Indian Country Today Media Network that his dad did not approve of the endorsement or how the vote was conducted. “It was done without the association’s awareness. They were trying to pass it without a quorum.”
The Facebook responses on the Navajo Code Talkers’ page were more to the point:
“People are crying. I almost threw up when I read it.”
“Sad day… so much for honor.”
“Big Mac” as he was known on the Navajo Nation played a big part in my childhood. Shimaasaani (my maternal grandmother) was a huge Peter MacDonald supporter. My mother and her siblings would shake their heads when he would come to Cameron, Arizona on the reservation and call on my grandmother whom he called auntie and in a fit of “MacDonaldmania” she would sell off yet more cattle to support his latest campaign.
To read the rest:

Big Mac and the Redsk*ns: On Leadership and Sovereignty, Fumble and Fame

1 comment:

northierthanthou said...

It's a well-written piece. I had missed MacDonald's role in the Redskins honoring. What I did read of the event made me very sad. I think I'm a little more sad now, bit it's worth knowing. Thank you for bringing this part of the story out.