The U.S. Patent Office ruled Tuesday the name of the National Football League team, the Washington Redskins, is offensive.
It's a ruling that validates what First Nations groups have been saying for years and a decision that has many in the aboriginal community cheering.
Aboriginal students at Winnipeg’s South East Collegiate (SEC) take pride in their school name, the Eagles.
Logos representing the students' home communities are also present in the gym.
“The beaver represents hard work,” said Angus Berens, a student at SEC. “That's what back home and this school is about: hard work and dedication to the education of the youth.”
“The eagle represents love, which is really important to our culture,” said Berens.
Redskins name racist
Students at SEC take issue with the Washington Redskins name.
“That's bad. That's like terrible,” said Kelsey Owens, a 16-year-old tenth-grader at SEC.
Berens called it racist.
"How are other races going to feel if you put, like, whites, coloured people, Asians," he said. "How are they going to feel? If they speak up, is it going to be heard because their population is bigger than ours?"
During the National Basketball Assoc. playoffs, which just wrapped Monday, a commercial aired that demonstrated and listed a number of First Nations community names and symbols — associations the communities are meant to be proud of.
After a string of traditional First Nation’s communities and descriptors, the following statement is made: “Native American's call themselves many things, the one thing they don't..."
The scene that proceeds shows a close-up of a football helmet with the Washington Redskins' Native American logo on it.
The commercial is having a galvanizing effect on the discourse surrounding the use of First Nations community names in sport.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled the Redskins name and iconography is "disparaging to Native Americans," and dropped six of the team's trademarks.
‘Giant step forward’
Lance Guilbault, an instructor at SEC, teaches students about how Aboriginal people are portrayed in film, television and mainstream media.
“It's become derogatory, it's become degrading,” said Guilbault. “Someone of Redskin ancestry, or to call someone Redskin, is right up there with lazy, with dirty Indian.”
Guilbault applauded the U.S. Patent office ruling.
“It’s a giant step forward,” he said. “You know there's only a handful of sports teams that have gone to a First Nations group and asked ‘what do you think of this?’”
People at SEC said the onus is now on the Washington team to change the name, and they hope other pro sport teams will follow suit.