Navajo Nation Suggests 'Code Talkers' as New Name for the Washington Redskins

Elizabeth Howe
July 15, 2020 - 1:55 pm
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The Navajo Nation has a name suggestion for the Washington Redskins National Football League Team -- the Code Talkers.

The NFL announced at the beginning of July that it would conduct a "thorough review" of the team's name. That review resulted in the decision to retire the controversial name of the team. 

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"Dan Snyder and Coach Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition-rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years," a statement from the Washington Redskins reads.

And Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez called the decision "historic."

"July 13, 2020 is now a historic day for all Indigenous peoples around the world as the NFL Washington-based team officially announced the retirement of the racist and disparaging “Redskins” team name and logo," Nez said in a statement. "This change did not come about willingly by the team’s owners, but by the mounting pressure and advocacy of Indigenous peoples...and many other warriors who fought long and hard for this change."

The term "redskins" was historically derived from bounty hunters who identified Indigenous people by the color of their skin. Nez said in his statement that the world is "not often told" of the "tragic and disgusting history" around the Washington, D.C. football team's name. 

Thus, the team must choose a name that "truly honors and respects the First Americans of this country," Nez said. 

Code Talkers were members of the Navajo nation recruited by the Marine Corps during World War II. The men confounded the Japanese by using their native language as a code to pass messages during combat operations in the Pacific.

Code Talkers spoke victory to help win World War II

During the course of the war, about 400 Navajos participated in the code talker program. The men developed words for terms that didn’t exist in their language. For example, warship became Lo-Tso-Yazzie or small whale. Dive bombers were "ginis" which translated means chicken hawks.

The Japanese never broke the code and the men who developed and used it were sworn to secrecy, a vow they took seriously.

"On behalf of the Navajo Nation, we thank and commend all of our Indigenous brothers and sisters who dedicated themselves to a just cause and won!" Nez's statement reads. "We stand with you as proud Indigenous peoples knowing that together we brought about change and we will continue to fight for what is right."

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Reach @ECBHowe.

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