Dawn Bjoraker Knows Why Native Americans Hate "Redskins" So Much


Outside the American Indian OIC along East Franklin Avenue, Dawn Bjoraker's teeth chatter in the harsh cold. It's early, the sun barely making its way over the skyscrapers surrounding her.

Perhaps Bjoraker's family would still be sleeping or curled up by a fireplace in these conditions, but not today. They're here for an important reason: to join together with brothers, sisters, and elders in a march and rally to let Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder know that the word "Redskins" is racist, no matter what he says. And he better change it. Soon.

"This has always been a big deal! It was a big deal when I was a kid. And now I'm 40, so you see?" Bjoraker explains. "But now, we're taking it back."

See also: Jeff Johnson Only Hennepin Commissioner to Oppose Anti-"Redskins" Resolution

Bjoraker isn't alone in her sentiment. She and the dozens of others around her have all arrived in these freezing cold temperatures to make sure Snyder knows that this isn't right. That's not something you can do from your couch.

"It's always to minimize something when you don't come in contact with it," Bjoraker says. "So we can't just sit and let it happen!"


Bjoraker and her family are off to the side as more and more Natives gather to prepare for their march, from the OIC to Northrup Plaza, then east to TCF Bank Stadium. The numbers multiply, from only a few dozen to hundreds upon hundreds.

As the clock strikes 8:30, the march reaches its full force. Suddenly, the protestors are shouting with force to those along the street, preaching to the uninitiated. The cold and wind don't matter.

Children and adults pound drums, providing the beat that paces this demonstration. Elders line a truck at the head of the march, leading chants and prayers that echo along the frat houses and coffee shops. Following behind are dancers.

Signs rise above heads.




The dances and chants continue for block after block after block. It's a parade of anger, a union of hundreds as one, preaching for the whole city to hear. The message is clear, and it has been delivered: We were here first. We are a people of pride and tradition. We understand what "Redskins" means. And we don't like it.

Once the group reaches its destination at TCF Bank Stadium, the mood shifts a bit. There's still plenty of anger to go around, but the songs and dances almost make it feel like a cultural celebration, too.

Yes, the speakers -- tribal officials, activists, even congressmen like Keith Ellison -- pump the crowd up with chants of "CHANGE THE NAME! CHANGE THE NAME!"

But the larger message has already been delivered. The simple act of these thousands gathering meant far more than words ever could. Here, no one was divided by tribe or gender or state. It was a giant show of solidarity, all united around one cause. No one knows if it'll actually make a difference (it certainly hasn't in the past). But it made one thing clear: These people are thousands strong, and they object.

Send your story tips to the author, Robbie Feinberg. Follow him on Twitter @robbiefeinberg.