Farmington — The Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission has approved a resolution recommending the Navajo Nation Council oppose the use of "disparaging" references to Native people in professional sports franchises.
Three commissioners unanimously passed the resolution, which recommends the council oppose the use of names such as "redskin," "redskins" and "chiefs," on Friday. The Washington Redskins and the Kansas City Chiefs are teams in the National Football League.
The resolution also recommends the Navajo government use the "United Nations Guiding Principles on Businesses and Human Rights" and the "United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" when addressing the rights of tribal members.
In June 2011, the U.N. Human Rights Council endorsed the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which created the first global standard for preventing and addressing the abuse of human rights linked to business activity.
The U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in September 2007. It sets the individual and collective rights and the rights to culture, identity, language, employment, health and education of indigenous peoples.
It also prohibits discrimination against indigenous peoples.
Commission Vice Chairwoman Valerie Kelly, who certified the resolution, was unavailable for comment on Monday.
The resolution was requested by Delegate Joshua Lavar Butler, who will sponsor similar legislation in the Tribal Council.
Attached to the commission's legislation was a draft copy of Butler's bill opposing the use of disparaging references by professional sports franchises.
Although the bill mentions that several professional sports franchises utilize references to Native Americans in mascots and team names, it only lists the Washington Redskins by name.
The legislation also explains the term "redskin" or "redskins" originated when bounties were offered for the murder of Native Americans.
With Native Americans facing high rates of suicide, violence against women, racial and hate crimes, poverty, unemployment and loss of identity and culture, the use of such terms has "a negative psychological effect on Native Americans, such as promoting low self-esteem and self-image in Native youth who are already disadvantaged by social ills beyond their control," the draft legislation states.
It also points out that Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, D-American Samoa, introduced a bill that would prohibit the registration of new trademarks using the term "redskin" and "redskins" in addition to providing a way to cancel existing trademarks using such terms.
Faleomavaega introduced his bill to the U.S. House of Representatives last year.
It was referred to the subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the Internet last April.
Butler, who represents Tó Nanees Dizí chapter in Arizona, plans to submit his legislation this week.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Butler said there are individuals in Indian Country who think the Navajo Nation supports the use of such "derogatory" terms based on national attention, such as an appearance by four members of the Navajo Code Talkers Association at an NFL game between Washington and San Francisco in November. He said that is not the case.
Butler said he wants the council to support his bill to show that the Navajo Nation formally opposes using such language.
"We have to show the rest of Indian Country that we are in support of them," Butler said.