While many have been celebrating the Washington Redskins’ decision to officially change the team nickname into something less triggering, not everyone is happy about the development, including the Native American family of the man who originally designed the NFL team’s logo.
The Redskins logo that America knows today was originally designed in 1971 by Native American Walter “Blackie” Wetzel, whose iconic image depicted John “Two Guns” White Calf, a Blackfeet Chief who also appears on the Buffalo Nickel.
“Wetzel grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and was eventually elected president of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C.,” WUSA9 reports. “He was instrumental in the Redskins franchise logo change from an ‘R’ to the current depiction of a Native American.”
Wetzel’s son, Lance Wetzel, said the logo evokes pride in Native Americans and should not be considered offensive. Though he understands the decision to change the team nickname, he believes the logo should stay.
“Everyone was pretty upset (about the change),” Lance Wetzel said. “Everyone understood the name change. We were all on board with that. Once they weren’t going to use the logo, it was hard. It takes away from the Native Americans. When I see that logo, I take pride in it. You look at the depiction of the Redskins logo and it’s of a true Native American. I always felt it was representing my people. That’s not gone.”
“The Native Americans were forgotten people. That logo lets people know these people exist,” Wetzel continued. “If it were changed and it removed any derogatory feelings toward any person, then I think it’s a win. I don’t want that logo to be associated in a negative way, ever.”
Earlier this year, the butter company Land O’ Lakes announced that it would be removing the famed “Butter Maiden” – a Native American woman named Mia – from its packaging, a logo designed by Native American artist Patrick DesJarlait. In an article for The Washington Post, DesJarlait’s son, Robert, said his father crafted the logo to “foster a sense of Indian pride.”
“With the redesign, my father made Mia’s Native American connections more specific,” he wrote. “He changed the beadwork designs on her dress by adding floral motifs that are common in Ojibwe art. He added two points of wooded shoreline to the lake that had often been depicted in the image’s background. It was a place any Red Lake tribal citizen would recognize as the Narrows, where Lower Red Lake and Upper Red Lake meet.”
Robert DesJarlait did say, however, that he opposes the use of Native American imagery in logos.
On Monday, the Washington Redskins announced that the team would soon be changing its name after FedEx, Nike, Pepsi, and Bank of America all denounced the name.
“Today, we are announcing that we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in a statement. “[Team owner] Dan Snyder and Coach [Ron] Rivera are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”