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Open Letter From Dan Snyder: The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation

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March 24, 2014

To Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation:

Several months ago I wrote you about my personal reflections on our team name and on our shared Washington Redskins heritage. I wrote then – and believe even more firmly now – that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.

In that letter, I committed myself to listening and learning from all voices with a perspective about our Washington Redskins name. I’ve been encouraged by the thousands of fans across the country who support keeping the Redskins tradition alive. Most – by overwhelming majorities – find our name to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values.

“There are Native Americans everywhere that 100% support the name,” Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians Chairwoman Mary L. Resvaloso told me when I came to visit her tribe. “I believe God has turned this around for something good.” She told me that it was far more important for us to focus on the challenges of education in Native American communities. I listened closely, and pledged to her that I would find ways to improve the daily lives of people in her tribe.

What would my resolve to honoring our legacy mean if I myself—as the owner of and a passionate believer in the Washington Redskins—didn’t stay true to my word? I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what Native Americans truly thought of our name, our logo, and whether we were, in fact, upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community.

So over the past four months, my staff and I travelled to 26 Tribal reservations across twenty states to listen and learn first-hand about the views, attitudes, and experiences of the Tribes. We were invited into their homes, their Tribal Councils and their communities to learn more about the extraordinary daily challenges in their lives.

“I appreciated your sincerity to learn about our culture and the real-life issues we face on a daily basis,” Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki told us after we toured his reservation. “I look forward to working together with you to improve the lives of Native Americans in any way possible."

The more I heard, the more I’ve learned, and the more I saw, the more resolved I became about helping to address the challenges that plague the Native American community. In speaking face-to-face with Native American leaders and community members, it’s plain to see they need action, not words.

Yes, some tribes are doing well. And in our candid conversations, we learned that we share so much with Indian country. We find their appreciation of history, legacy, caring for their elders and providing a better future for their youth inspirational and admirable.

But the fact is, too many Native American communities face much harsher, much more alarming realities. They have genuine issues they truly are worried about, and our team’s name is not one of them. Here are just a few staggering, heartbreaking facts about the challenges facing Native Americans today:

-- The official poverty rate on reservations is 29 percent, as determined by the U.S. Census.

36 percent of families with children are below the poverty line on reservations, compared with

9 percent of families nationally. Jobs are scarce, and so is genuine opportunity.

-- Rampant diabetes, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, and heightened suicide rates afflict Native American youth, adults, and veterans. Life expectancies in high poverty Native American communities are the lowest anywhere in the Western Hemisphere—except for Haiti.

-- Tribal reservations can lack even the most basic infrastructure that most Americans take for granted. For example, according to the independent, highly respected Millennium Project, 13 percent of Native American households have no access to safe water and/or wastewater disposal, compared with just 0.6 percent in non-native households. Similarly, 14 percent of homes on Native American reservations have no electricity, compared to just 1 percent among non-native households. It is hard to build for a better tomorrow without the basic needs of today.

These aren’t rare circumstances. These are the unfortunate facts found throughout Indian country today.

I’ve listened. I’ve learned. And frankly, its heart wrenching. It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.

I want to do more. I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life—one tribe and one person at a time. I know we won’t be able to fix every problem. But we need to make an impact.

And so I will take action.

As loyal fans of the Washington Redskins, I want you to know that tomorrow I will announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

The mission of the Original Americans Foundation is to provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities for Tribal communities. With open arms and determined minds, we will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most. We may have created this new organization, but the direction of the Foundation is truly theirs.

Our work is already underway, under the leadership of Gary Edwards, a Cherokee and retired Deputy Assistant Director of the United States Secret Service, as well as a founder and chief executive officer of the National Native American Law Enforcement Association.

Because I’m so serious about the importance of this cause, I began our efforts quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight, to learn and take direction from the Tribal leaders themselves. In addition to travelling and meeting in-person with Tribal communities, we took a survey of tribes across 100 reservations so that we could have an accurate assessment of the most pressing needs in each community.

The stories I heard and the experiences I witnessed were of children without winter coats or athletic shoes; students in makeshift classrooms without adequate school supplies; text books more than decades old; rampant and unnecessary suffering from preventable diseases like diabetes; economic hardship almost everywhere; and in too many places too few of the tools and technology that we all take for granted every day—computers, internet access, even cellphone coverage.

In the heart of America’s Indian country, poverty is everywhere. That’s not acceptable. We have so much, yet too many Native Americans have so little.

Our work has already begun:

-- As the bitter Arctic winds swept across the Plains this winter, we distributed over 3,000 cold-weather coats to several tribes, as well as shoes to players on boys and girls basketball teams.

“It’s been one of the coldest winters on record,” Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Vice Chairman Boyd Gourneau told me. “The entire Tribe is so appreciative of the coats we received for our youth and elders. It’s been such a great relationship, and we hope it grows.”

-- We assisted in the purchase of a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska. The Tribe will now be able to complete the burial process for their loved ones even in the coldest winter months, as well as assist in water pipe repairs which, without a functioning backhoe, has left the tribe without water -- for days.

These projects were the first of many and we currently have over forty additional projects currently in process. We look forward to telling you more about these as our work proceeds.

For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities.

The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will serve as a living, breathing legacy – and an ongoing reminder – of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins. I’m glad to be able to launch this vital initiative today.

With Respect and Appreciation,

Dan Snyder

P.S. Throughout this journey, there have been many incredible moments. One of my favorite fan moments took place in Gallup, NM – to the cheers of dozens of Washington Redskins fans. As Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arlen Quetawki noted, “We even had an unprompted welcoming party of Washington Redskins fans from Zuni and Navajo greet you when you departed from the airport!” The passion and support for the Burgundy and Gold throughout the country has been overwhelming.

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This is beautiful.

What a wonderful movement for these people!

 

Major kudos to Mr. Snyder, and the organization.

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Just got this e-mail, and I'm glad this is happening.  I'm sure mediots will spin this as a stunt, but it has the potential to be a truly beneficial thing for these people, and carry the legacy of Native Americans proudly.  People don't really know the history behind the Redskins (good article here: http://www.coldhardfootballfacts.com/content/hail-to-the-redskins-nfl-must-save-name-image-legacy/25861/), and I'm hoping this will result in people learning more and coming to understand that the name and team can be a positive force.

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Name...

Washington Redskins + The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, pretty Awesome!  Seems like a great thing. Stick it to the Man Dan.  Here comes the news

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Regardless of where one stands on the name debate, I think we can agree that what the Redskins and Daniel Snyder is doing here for a lot of Native American communities is a very very good thing.

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Good to see them finally coming around to my position :P

Art, tarhog, fansince62, NavyDave, and several others said I was a librul pinko idiot. Guess they can think that of Dan Snyder now

On a serious note, certain paid gutless cheap shot artists who make a living trolling the fanbase will call this a stunt, but nonetheless this is a great thing to do for the NA community. I hope this is just the start. I would like to see more NA participation in our marketing and gameday experience similar to the FSU model

Bravo Mr. Snyder

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This move strikes me as laughably transparent. I have spent many years working for a nonprofit charity however, and I know that most of the time the motives of those writing checks matters little to those in urgent need. May all PR problems result in an outpouring of support for groups that could really use the help.

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I think it's a solid move, and hope it becomes more substantial than just a PR Release.

Personally, This would have been better as a weekend news dump because this is going to get torn apart by everyone's so-called "A-Team" come the morning. Hell, the cynics on Twitter are already out in full force.

I avoid all the networks For anything outside of game broadcasts but I imagine those who torture themselves with First Take will have an extra angry morning.

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An organization helping people in need. There's not a damn thing wrong with that.

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Suck it UnWise Mike. Suck it. I know you read ES so again, suck it.

Wise, Costas etc etc are fatuous jokes masquerading as people, but they serve a valuable function: they stand as pure examples of that which it is to be better than.

Dan, by going through with these laudable efforts has shown that he IS better than them.

You da man, Dan.

velocet

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You can debate the true intentions of the letter until you are blue in the face...however, what you can't debate is that there are people out there who WILL benefit from the generosity of the team. 

 

It's going to rustle some jimmies, but what can you do?  LOL.

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I think it's a solid move, and hope it becomes more substantial than just a PR Release.

It HAS to be substantial, or it's going to do more harm than good. If it's just a PR release, you KNOW the media will be all over the place with stories about how the Washington Redskins are adding insult to injury by not giving Native Americans the help they were promised.

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Amazing news. Glad the Redskins will be helping out Native American communities. If this new charity can do for them what Tanya Snyder has helped do for breast cancer awareness then it will be a massive success. 

 

Actions indeed are louder than words.


I think it's a solid move, and hope it becomes more substantial than just a PR Release.

Personally, This would have been better as a weekend news dump because this is going to get torn apart by everyone's so-called "A-Team" come the morning. Hell, the cynics on Twitter are already out in full force.

I avoid all the networks For anything outside of game broadcasts but I imagine those who torture themselves with First Take will have an extra angry morning.

 

I disagree. I think it's smart doing it now because no matter what the critics will have their say, but doing this at a time where it will get a lot of attention means the charity will get a lot of attention and that's a good thing.

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Amazing news. Glad the Redskins will be helping out Native American communities. If this new charity can do for them what Tanya Snyder has helped do for breast cancer awareness then it will be a massive success. .

I had forgotten the Snyders were behind the whole breast cancer awareness thing. That bodes well. I hope this new charity is featured prominently on game day.

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An organization helping people in need. There's not a damn thing wrong with that.

 

This will do more to actually help Native Americans with real issues than anything anyone on the name change side of things has or will ever do. If the name ever did get changed those people would enjoy their "victory" and move on to the next cause.

 

I think it is a great move by the team. I've thought for awhile that the best thing they could do would be start a foundation to address real Native American issues. Of course because it is Dan Snyder it will be heavily criticized by all of the usual suspects.

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I'm so glad this finally happened. People will complain, but complaining never fed a hungry child. Can't wait to see this bear fruit.  

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Very proud of this organization for stepping up and doing something like this, makes me proud to call myself a Fan of the Redskins. As for those trashing this and calling it a mere PR stunt, my God people can we just for once look at the positives coming out of this for the Native Americans instead of being negative. Whether you think there are ulterior motives involved or not, some real good can come of this for these great people who are so very often overlooked and ignored. Like a poster above stated where can I sign up to donate.

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I am an Alaskan Native and  a Skins fan for over 25 years and have never been more proud of this organization... Thank You Mr Snyder for not listening to the talking heads about the name change and for trying to bring focus to some of the real problems facing Native American communities. I will also be looking to see where I  can help and donate to this Foundation.

 

 

HTTR

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Looking past the PR piece and the actual difference the Foundation makes, this casts the spotlight on the plight of the Native Americans. The publicity alone is huge.

Heard a report on how Canadian journalists struggled to get funding for research/investigations of their NA populations - I imagine its similar here in the States. Kudos Mr. Snyder... regardless of whether this was a baseline PR move or not, you're upping the ante on awareness.

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