In defense of sports teams that are named after Native American tribes or characteristics (i.e. their skin), a common refrain is that these names stand for “strength, courage, pride and respect” (to quote Roger Goodell). Still others say that by changing these names, we will no longer have a way to honor our Native American friends.
Perhaps no one told Nike that the correct way to honor Native Americans is by donning a cap made of feathers and wielding a hatchet, because the company will be outfitting four college basketball teams with some eye-catching turquoise uniforms, starting this Sunday, Nov. 17:
Some are calling the uniforms ugly; I, for one, think they’re gorgeous. But what’s the significance of turquoise to the Native American culture? We turn to an explanations from Indians.org (via LostLetterman):
Legend has it that the Native American Indians danced and rejoiced when the rains came. Their tears of joy mixed with the rain and seeped into Mother Earth to become SkyStone Turquoise.
Turquoise, the “fallen sky stone” hidden in Mother Earth, has been valued by cultures for its beauty and reputed spiritual and life-giving qualities for over 7000 years. It is a true gem of the centuries. A long time ago someone noticed a clear blue line running through gray rock, and saw the imagery of sky and water in stone, and from that time on, turquoise has been cherished above all else in creation – turquoise, stone of sky, stone of water, stone of blessings, good fortune, protection, good health and long life.
To the Native Americans, turquoise is life. There are stones medicine men keep in their sacred bundles because they possess powers of healing. Stones and crystals have unique attributed that support and heal us. Turquoise, especially, is known for its positive healing energy, an aid in mental functions, communications and expression and as a protector.
Turquoise is a thoughtful, fitting tribute to the myriad of cultures that make up the larger Native American subset of humanity that modern-day Americans feel they have a right to turn into mascots. We applaud Nike for actually taking the time to research an appropriate tribute to Native Americans, rather than relying on easy stereotypes and caricatures.
Perhaps if the “Redskins” are really interested in honoring their namesakes, they’ll change the name to the Washington Turquoise. Sure, that would cut into Dan Synder’s hugely profitable trademark, but that can’t be the real reason he doesn’t want to change the name, could it?