Native American Chief used to defend Redskins nickname may not be a Native American Chief

Brian McIntyre
June 27, 2013

There is no shortage of individuals who find the Washington Redskins name offensive to Native Americans. Even Congress has moved to get the name changed.

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder has staunchly defended the continued use of the name, insisting that the team will never change it.

"We will never change the name of the team," Snyder told USA TODAY Sports in May. "As a lifelong Redskins fan, and I think that the Redskins fans understand the great tradition and what it's all about and what it means, so we feel pretty fortunate to be just working on next season.

"We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."

Snyder's defiant comments to USA Today came one week after Stephen Dodson, a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan and Prince George County resident came forward to defend the team's use of the name on Redskins Nation. According to the Redskins, Dodson is "a full-blooded American Inuit chief originally from the Aleutian Tribes of Alaska" who referred to the team "redskins" as a term of endearment on the reservation during an appearance on Redskins Nation, a program produced by the team.

Dodson coming forward was cited by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when he supported the Redskins in a letter to Congress.

According to a report on Thursday by Dave McKenna of, Snyder and Goodell may have wanted to vet Mr. Dodson a bit more thoroughly.

According to the Deadspin report from McKenna — who it should be noted was once sued for defamation by Snyder — Dodson is not a chief (though it appears to be his nickname) and he might not even be Native American.

"I heard him say that [he and his family] go to pow wows? That’s not Aleut or Inuit," said Kelly Eningowuk, executive director of the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska. "And he talks about living on a reservation of some sort. There are no Inuit or Aleut reservations in Alaska."

Dodson referred to himself as "a full-blooded Indian" on the Redskins program, a term that is not used by either Inuits or Aluets.

"Aleuts do not call themselves 'Indian,'" said Larry Merculieff, an advocate for Aleut issues in the state of Alaska. "We are native Alaskans, but not Indian."

It's doubtful that this revelation will do little to lessen the fervor in which Snyder defends the continued use of the Redskins nickname. It could, however, draw the ire of Goodell, who sent the letter to Congress defending the name and may be the only man powerful enough to twist Snyder's arm in the matter.

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