The Vikings game with the Washington Redskins is still 11 days away, but the planning for the event is going on behind the scenes– in a big way.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of the Manifest Destiny-related signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty that relocated thousands of Midwestern Native Americans to reservations, plans were underway to draw a non-violent line in the sand Nov. 2 outside TCF Bank Stadium.
Viking Update spoke with American Indian Movement Co-Founder Clyde Bellecourt Tuesday as to the extent of public protest that is being planned as the NFL brings its global spotlight to the heart of the Native American population of the Midwest.
What Bellecourt said was interesting, to say the least.
Plans are underway to have as many Native American tribes and members present Nov. 2 as possible to make a very public point of the issue of cultural racism. The call has gone out for support for the cause and even he has been surprised by the result.
“We have heard from people from just about every state that they plan to be represented,” Bellecourt said. “We have heard that people will be coming from as far away as Berlin. We’ve received support from people like Jesse Jackson. This isn’t an issue simply of the insulting, racist name. It’s an issue that brings more people together than just our people. It brings people from all walks of life together.”
Activist Dick Gregory is scheduled to meet with Bellecourt this week to discuss the plans for a protest concerning the use of the Redskins nickname and provide support for the cause by speaking with area groups to raise more public awareness to the problem.
Bellecourt said that the history of African Americans and Native Americans have run a similar path in the United States and that the bond they have is based from a shared experience.
“From the time of the Underground Railroad, there have been times that call for people to take action and do what is right for all people,” Bellecourt said. “Our people have always come together to support one another during times of trouble. That’s what is happening here because it is time for this injustice to stop.”
Bellecourt is no stranger to arranging peaceful protests of the Washington Redskins nickname. When Washington and Buffalo met at the Metrodome in Super Bowl XXVI in January 1992, Bellecourt led a march around the stadium in protest of the nickname.
In 1992, the numbers were estimated by local police authorities at about 2,000. More than 22 years later, the hope is that, with the impact of social media and a new generation of those wanting to eliminate the Redskins nickname, the numbers will be larger.
Bellecourt believes that the national focus that the NFL draws now is much more significant than it was in 1992 and, like or not, numbers get the attention of the media.
“We have been trying for a lifetime to get that name removed,” Bellecourt said. “We’re not a mascot. We’re a people. Protests get the attention of the public. If enough people are involved, change can be made.”
The fact that the game is being played at TCF Bank Stadium on the campus of the University of Minnesota is going to potentially help impact the numbers that can be drawn prior to the start of the Nov. 2 game.
Bellecourt hopes to mobilize the students at the university to join in their demonstration and show support for what many American Indians view as a racist slur against their people. A slur to one is a slur to all.
“There are 50,000 students at the university,” Bellecourt said. “We’re going to be passing out 10,000 fliers explaining our purpose for being there and we hope they will join us in protesting something that is wrong and has been wrong for far too long now.”
As the days draw closer to NFL fans in the nation’s capital witnessing what is going on outside a stadium in fly-over country, Bellecourt hopes that the message will be sent – not only just for those who attend the game or participate in the protest, but for the global audience that is watching.
“We’re not a powerful corporation,” Bellecourt said. “Our power is with the people who support our cause. We hope that those numbers will come together and our strength with be in unity opposing something that is demeaning to our people.”
Bellecourt plans big protest for Nov. 2 game
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