Today, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder announced plans to create the Original Americans Foundation in response to the controversy over the NFL team name. According to a letter written by Snyder to Redskins fans on Monday “The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for tribal communities”.
As a life-long Redskins fan I am torn on this name issue. On one hand, as someone that lives and breathes burgundy and gold, the idea of changing the name of my beloved team is unthinkable. But on the other hand, I am very sensitive to the idea that this name is derogatory to our Native Americans. Normally, I would say that I would love the chance to be the owner of my favorite team, but this name controversy is something that I would hate to deal with or make a decision on.
I applaud Mr. Snyder’s move to create this Original Americans Foundation and invest in improving the well being of our Native Americans, but judging from the negative news stories that have covered the announcement, the foundation needs to do more then just distribute coats. This is why I strongly believe that Dan Snyder should use the Original Americans Foundation to create a genuine sense of pride and real economic benefits by helping tribes develop and promote cultural and heritage tourism on Native American land.
Using cultural and heritage tourism to support economic development is not a new idea for Native Americans. Several organizations that Solimar works with including AIANTA, BIA, National Geographic Society, and George Washington University have been helping support the development of cultural and heritage tourism in Indian Country for decades.
"Indian country is a unique part of the American experience. In today’s America, more than 56 million acres in the lower 48 states and more than 40 million acres in Alaska are considered “Indian country.” Native people also have ties to lands not currently under their management responsibility but which have been significant sacred places and landscapes since time immemorial. Notwithstanding their unique place in America, many tribal communities are looking to cultural and heritage tourism as an important component of economic development within their communities." - NATHPO's Tribal Tourism Toolkit
Solimar works with indigenous communities around the world and here in the US to develop and promote sustainable tourism. We know first hand the power of tourism designed, developed, and managed by tribes themselves - unique, authentic, cultural, and nature-based tourism that create a sense of pride while providing real economic benefits. We know our Native Americans are capable and would like to provide these types of visitor experiences but unfortunately with a few exceptions, most tribes need a lot of help and support to develop this type of tourism.
This is the type of development support the Original Americans Foundation should be providing. Not just because this type of financial support and technical expertise is needed, but more importantly because of the marketing reach the Redskins could provide to support these Native American cultural heritage tourism experiences.
As a season ticket holder I would love for commercial breaks to feature breathtaking scenery and Native Americans inviting fans to come experience their land and discover their cultural heritage like this video produced by Montana's office of tourism.
One of the biggest challenges for cultural heritage tourism is the lack of marketing and promotional budgets that help connect these experiences to the market. If the Redskins organization would open up their media empire to help showcase and celebrate our Native American communities, not only would we help create demand for these experiences, but each Redskin game would celebrate and showcase the cultural heritage of our Native Americans.
This seems like a much more logical investment strategy to support the mission of this new Original American Foundation, but judging from the lack of investments in the free agency market to shore up our secondary, I guess we can’t always expect wise investments from this team.
Regardless of what happens with the foundation, the name change, or the Redskins’ secondary, I will be there on opening day dressed in burgundy and gold routing for my team with the same passion as always. That’s what Redskins fans do – we hope, we believe, and we pray - at least for the first half of the season. #HTTR