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USA: ‘Redskins’ Team mascot hurtful reminder of past suffering of Native Americans – UN rights expert

GENEVA (11 April 2014) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, James Anaya, today called on the owners of the Washington Redskins Football team, to consider “the hurtful reminder that the term ‘redskins’ represents of the long history of mistreatment of Native American people in the United States.”

“While I am aware that there are some divergent views on this issue,” the human rights expert said, “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.”

In a 2012 report* on the situation of indigenous peoples in the US, the Special Rapporteur likewise stressed that “the use of stereotypes obscures understanding of the reality of Native Americans today and instead help to keep alive racially discriminatory attitudes.”

In that report, he noted that within the US many stereotypes still portray Native Americans as relics of the past, perpetuated by the use of Indian names by professional and other high-profile sports teams, caricatures in the popular media and even mainstream education on history and social studies.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to the dignity and diversity of their cultures, traditions, histories and aspirations which shall be appropriately reflected in education and public information,” Mr. Anya said, quoting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The rights expert further recalled that States must take measures to combat prejudice and eliminate discrimination and to promote tolerance, understanding and good relations among indigenous peoples and all other segments of society.

“Private actors also have responsibilities independently of the States’ obligation to promote and protect human rights,” Mr. Anaya said. “These responsibilities have been outlined most comprehensively in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the Human Rights Council in June 2011.”

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s 2012 report on the USA: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/RegularSession/Session21/A-HRC-21-47-Add1_en.pdf

The UN Human Rights Council appointed S. James Anaya as Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in March 2008. Mr. Anaya is a Regents Professor and the James J. Lenoir Professor of Human Rights Law and Policy at the University of Arizona (United States). As Special Rapporteur, he is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/IPeoples/SRIndigenousPeoples/Pages/SRIPeoplesIndex.aspx

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: http://daccess-ods.un.org/access.nsf/Get?Open&DS=A/RES/61/295&Lang=E

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Business/Pages/Tools.aspx

UN Human Rights Country Page – United States of America: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/ENACARegion/Pages/USIndex.aspx

For more information and media inquiries, please contact Maia Campbell (+ 41 22 917 9314 /mcampbell@ohchr.org) or write to indigenous@ohchr.org.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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