‘Redskin’ is a racial slur
I am writing to support the Cooperstown Central School Board’s decision to reopen the question of changing the sports teams’ nickname from the “Redskins.”
I personally believe that this nickname is a detriment to the school and its athletes for a variety of reasons. As the issue of history and heritage are used to support both sides of this argument, I think that it is time we review our community’s historical connection between Cooperstown and the native peoples of this region. We share a rich heritage, and there is much to be proud of in this regard. For hundreds of years, prior to the 18th century, Otsego Lake was a center of Native American life in the Northeast, with the Haudensaunee and Algonquin people using the Susquehanna River and lake as major routes of transportation that extended over many thousands of square miles.
We also know that the lake was an important hunting and fishing site for the native settlements in the Mohawk Valley. The evidence of these peoples’ lives is all around us; it is turned up every spring when local farmers plow their fields and discover arrowheads and pot shards, and it is in the very place names that define our community. Otsego, Susquehanna, Oneonta, and Council Rock are among the many place names that come down to us from our native forebears.
To the extent that we believe in the power of history and that we understand Cooperstown to be a place blessed in its heritage, we must also understand that there is a dark element to this history that makes the school’s use of the term “Redskins” as the team nickname particularly egregious. In the summer of 1779 the Clinton-Sullivan Campaign that had the primary objective of destroying the homes, villages and crops of the Iroquois people in order to drive them from their ancestral homes, was launched from the present site of Cooperstown. This campaign was one of the largest military operations waged in North America during the American Revolution and involved thousands of soldiers and hundreds of bateaux (wooden military boats) sailing down the Susquehanna and destroying every village, crop and orchard that they came across.