Tags: playoffs | seahawks | redskins | football | nfl | super bowl

PC Playoffs Scoreboard: Sacred Seahawks Praised, Profane Redskins Condemned

Image: PC Playoffs Scoreboard: Sacred Seahawks Praised, Profane Redskins Condemned
NFL Washington Redskins vs Seattle Seahawks, Oct. 2014 (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 08 Jan 2016 04:45 PM

The NFL playoffs kick off Saturday and, much to the dismay of Sen. Harry Reid and others who abhor the name, the Washington Redskins are among the 12 teams fighting to win Super Bowl 50.

But while the NFC East champions have faced heavy criticism from those who find their team name offensive to Native Americans, another playoff participant whose logo is taken from Indian culture not only escapes similar outrage but is actually praised for its symbolism.

It is not a widely-known fact that the Seattle Seahawks logo was derived – don't call it "appropriated," as the Washington Post's Kevin Blackistone wrote in June in skewering the Redskins – from Pacific Northwest Indian sacred art.

The blog site Olympia Time cites an article in the Northwest Indian News from 1975, one year before the franchise debuted in the NFL, that reported "[Seahawks general manager John) Thompson said the NFL [designing] firm did refer to some books on Northwest Indian culture" before choosing the team's logo.

"'Our intent was to follow the Northwest Indian culture, but there was no condition placed on them in designing,'" the article reads.

Before the Seahawks' appearance in Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, the Alaska Dispatch News reported that the team's popular bird logo most likely came from a  "Kwakwaka'wakw transformation mask depicting an eagle (in its closed form) with a human face inside (revealed when the mask opens when danced)."

When Nike redesigned the Seahawks' uniforms in 2012 to those the team has worn in the last two Super Bowls, Indian Country Today Media Network reported that the sportswear Goliath "drew on the designs taken from totem poles, making the bird on the helmet come to a significant point on the back."

The website Legends of America writes of totems:

"A totem is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol of a tribe, clan, family or individual. Native American tradition provides that each individual is connected with nine different animals that will accompany each person through life, acting as guides. Different animal guides come in and out of our lives depending on the direction that we are headed and the tasks that need to be completed along our journey."

In his 2008 book "Totem Poles," author Pat Kramer noted the profound importance the symbolism of totem pole art had for Pacific Northwestern Indian tribes.

"[T]he granting of a title was symbolized by the right to display certain totemic figures and the process verified by an official witness."

Such a title gave certain "powers, privileges and interests in property" to the holder.

Kramer continues:

"This bestowing according to the laws of kinship was then symbolized by displaying sanctioned totemic figures on one's dishes, clothing, weapons, and totem poles.

"Great offense was taken if anyone displayed a figure to which they had no rights."

Yet today there is no offense taken by those who decry the Redskins name as the Seahawk totem figure, part of the NFL marketing machine, is slapped on an endless array of trinkets, among them a cup cozie, boxer shorts, a pair of pajamas, a dog coat and, even, toilet paper.

Indeed, despite this fact, there seems to be a politically correct consensus that incorporating sacred Indian symbols for a sports logo is acceptable while conjuring the warrior spirit of tribes is not.

The Washington Post's Blackistone laments his days as a Redskins fan decked out in team gear:

"We stole it. That's called cultural appropriation. It's misapplication. It's misuse. It's a callous disregard of the sensibilities of others who are not us."

At the same time, David Neiwert on the liberal Crooks and Liars website takes pride as a fan in the origins of the Seahawks' logo:

"This is a very special kind of mask, called a transformation mask, that was used in tribal ceremonies and in this case was used to invoke the power of the thunderbird, or eagle, spirit.

"The religious beliefs of this tribe held that the great animal spirits came to earth at various times and transformed themselves into human shape. …

"That's some awesome spiritual power that the Seahawks have tapped into."

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The NFL playoffs kick off Saturday and, much to the dismay of Sen. Harry Reid and others who abhor the name, the Washington Redskins are among the 12 teams fighting to win Super Bowl 50.
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2016-45-08
Friday, 08 Jan 2016 04:45 PM
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