On Friday, December 1, 2023, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), filed a motion to dismiss a case brought against it in the United States District Court for the District of North Dakota. The case, which was brought by the Virginia-incorporated Native American Guardian’s Association (NAGA), alleges that NCAI somehow conspired with the Washington, DC, National Football League team when they changed their name to the Washington Commanders. However, the only act that plaintiffs allege is that NCAI issued a press release supporting the Commanders’ decision to keep their new name.
NCAI President Mark Macarro responded to the NAGA complaint explaining, “Since 1968, the National Congress of American Indians and its Tribal Nation members have taken the position that the Washington NFL team should change its dehumanizing and derogatory name. Issuing a press release applauding the team’s decision to drop a derogatory name is far from unlawful. All the complaint shows is that NCAI exercised its right to free speech on an important issue that affects Native Americans across the country.”
Race-based mascots, logos, and symbols became popular during a time in our country when racism and cultural oppression were the norm. Not only are they offensive and perpetuate negative stereotypes of Native people, they cause real, documented harm to the mental health of Native youth. The American Psychological Association found that derogatory representations like Native-based mascots create hostile learning environments for Native students. Studies show that the continued use of American Indian mascots teaches young people that stereotyping minority groups is an acceptable practice, further legitimizing discrimination against Native Americans.
NARF Deputy Director Matthew Campbell, who has worked in forums across the country to change harmful mascots, said, “NCAI has advocated for the elimination of harmful mascots for decades. As an organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for Native people and communities, this sort of advocacy only makes sense. The Native American Guardian’s Association may have a different opinion on this issue, but differing viewpoints are not enough to form a conspiracy lawsuit. This suit is legally unsound and disappointing to see in a time when these mascots and images have been found to harm our youth.”
Read NCAI’s motion to dismiss at: https://www.narf.org/nill/documents/20231201-naga-ncai-mtd.pdf
About the Native American Rights Fund (NARF):
NARF is a non-profit 501c(3) organization focused on applying existing laws and treaties to guarantee that federal and state governments live up to their legal obligations to Native Americans. Since 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided specialized legal assistance to Tribal Nations as well as Native American organizations and individuals nationwide to assert and defend the most important rights. In hundreds of major cases, NARF has achieved significant results in critical areas such as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, voting rights, and Indian education. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @NDNrights to learn about the latest fights to promote justice and protect Native American rights.
About the National Congress of American Indians:
Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) is the oldest, largest, and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the United States. NCAI advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies. NCAI promotes an understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people, and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.