UN rights expert calls for ‘Washington Redskins’ name change News
UN rights expert calls for ‘Washington Redskins’ name change

[JURIST] The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, called Friday upon the owners of the Washington Redskins football team to change the team’s name [press release]. Anaya focused on the hurtful history of the term “redskin” as it relates to Native Americans in the US. In the press release, Anaya stated:

While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue. I urge the team owners to consider that the term “redskin” for many is inextricably linked to a history of suffering and dispossession, and that it is understood to be a pejorative and disparaging term that fails to respect and honour the historical and cultural legacy of the Native Americans in the US.

Anaya also emphasized the international obligations on all states to respect the dignity of indigenous cultures and protect their human rights. These obligations are extended to the private market by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights [text, PDF]. The use of such terms in high profile venues, the report [text, PDF] indicates, ignores the plight Native Americans have suffered in the US.

Anaya visited the US in 2012 to launch the UN’s first ever investigation into the rights situation of Native Americans [JURIST report]. Anaya’s goal was to look into the rights of Native Americans, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians, and determine how the US’s endorsement of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text, PDF] has affected the rights of these groups of people. The US endorsed [JURIST report] the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010, after being one of four member states originally opposed to the treaty when it was adopted by the UN [JURIST report] in 2007. The other countries opposed to it, Canada, New Zealand and Australia [JURIST reports], have all also changed their views and have since endorsed the treaty. This non-binding treaty outlines the human rights issues faced by the more than 370 million indigenous people throughout the world and encourages nations not to discriminate against them. The declaration was debated for more than two decades before it was passed.