Not, I know, that historical scholarship, i.e., the truth about the facts of the case, is going to cut much mustard with folks like Suzan Shown Harjo. They are not in the business of establishing truth but rather of running a grievance-mongering industry, and only those facts that support their activism need apply for the job of counting as evidence. Still, for those of us interested in the actual, as distinct from the mythological, history of the issue, Paquette has some interesting facts to relate.
For more than a century after colonizing the North American mainland colonies, English settlers, when describing their interactions with indigenous peoples, applied the terms “white” or “tawny” to them. No one, to the best of any professional historian’s knowledge, has found the use of redskin to describe an “Indian” before the early decades of the eighteenth century. White Americans under the influence of French rationalism became more tri-color coded in broadly speaking of “races” only during the late eighteenth-century. In fact, no less than Thomas Jefferson in the first edition of Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), in a section of the book that challenges the wisdom of the French naturalist, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon in his characterization of the New World’s flora and fauna, emerges as one of the first prominent persons in the United States to speak of “man, white, red, and black,” The application by warriors of red paint to their bodies prior to waging war undoubtedly helped at some point to cement in the minds of whites the association of red with Indian. Thus, for many whites, though, to be sure, not all, “redskin” came to connote ferocity, bravery, and daring, attributes that one might easily want to associate with a football team.
And so on. Read the whole thing. Long live the Redskins!