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Faleomavaega invited by the NCAI to offer opening remarks at Capitol Hill event

Washington, D.C. — Congressman Faleomavaega was invited to offer opening remarks at a briefing and reception on December 5, 2013, hosted by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) entitled "Indian Mascots: Ending a Legacy of Derogatory Sports Mascots, Logos, and Symbols”.


 The event, the first of its kind on Capitol Hill in the recent resurgence of the Washington Redskins name controversy, was hosted by NCAI in coordination with Congressman Faleomavaega and Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswoman Betty McCollum (MN-04) and Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04).


The event featured civil rights advocates from across the nation and representatives from tribal governments and organizations. Throughout his career, Congressman Faleomavaega has been a leading advocate on Native American issues. He is also the original co-sponsor of H.R. 1278, The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013, legislation that would cancel the federal registrations of trademarks using the word “redskin” in reference to Native Americans.


Samoa News notes the NCAIS address was delivered “at the direction” of Faleomavaega — not by the Congressman himself.


To date, there has been no additional public information on the status of our Congressman’s health, since the second week of November 2013. Samoa News has sent inquiries to his office, but to date — no response.


Currently, we have no confirmation of where Faleomavaega is recuperating since his sudden ‘undisclosed’ illness on Oct. 21 on his way to Pago Pago to attend the Governor’s territorial Education Summit.


The last the public heard was from Faiivae Alex Godinet, his chief of staff for the local office, who noted at the time (second week of November): "He will be moved from Tripler next week, and will return to either Utah or Washington DC, as he undergoes further rehab," he said.


At the time, Faiivae emphasized that the Congressman’s office would remain fully operational and continue to function under the guidance of Faleomavaega.




It is my distinct honor and privilege to share with you my position on a subject of great concern to millions of our Native American brothers and sisters – that is the use of the term “redskins” by the National Football League’s Washington franchise.


I speak not to my brothers and sisters in Indian country. I speak to those who would seek to wash away years of pain, suffering, and humiliation endured by our nation’s first inhabitants by perpetuating the NFL’s shameful legacy of this most disparaging and patently offensive word.  


Despite the widespread attention given this matter by the national media, there still remains a large majority of the non-native general public that does not appear to know the violent and abusive history behind this racial epithet. I would like to take this opportunity to provide some much needed clarity on the subject. 


The origin of the term “redskins” is commonly attributed to the historical practice of killing Native Americans – cutting off certain body parts and scalping the heads of even women and children – for bounties paid by the colonial officials. These scalps have been referred to as “redskins.” 


Much of the outcry over the name of the NFL’s Washington football franchise is due, in part, to the federal government’s protection of disparaging trademarks granted to the franchise for the slur. Governing federal law established in 1946 requires that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office deny registration for any words that “disparage  . . . persons” – living or dead – “or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”  Despite this most despicable act of genocide against the Native American people, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in 1967, granted the NFL’s Washington football franchise, a federally registered trademark for the same word. 


This should have never happened. Native American nations have treaty and trust relations with the federal government as is clearly recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution. 


The law is clear – disparaging words MAY NOT receive federal trademark protections. And yet 66 years after the law was established, this slur continues to enjoy such protections. In fact, the NFL’s Washington football franchise has six federally registered trademarks for the same word. 


This was not the work of the Native American community. It was the work of a federal agency that ignored the law and its duty to shield our native peoples from degrading trademark registrations.  With due respect, the federal government is part of the problem. And after years of pleading with the NFL, with the Washington football franchise’s owner Mr. Dan Snyder, with the Patent and Trademark Office, with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, with the D.C. District Court, and with the D.C. Court of Appeals, the Native American community is left right where they started – with a 1.6 billion dollar football franchise freely exploiting the shameful memory of the ethnic cleansing that was forced upon the Native American people. 


 In an attempt to correct the long-standing usage of this word, I and several Members of this House, including the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Native American Caucus – Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Congresswoman Betty McCollum of Minnesota – as well as Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and others, introduced the bill H.R. 1278, the Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013. This bill would cancel the federal registrations of trademarks using the word “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. 


Let me be clear – this is not a popularity contest. It is not even about sports! This is a moral issue that reaches far back to a time when Native Americans were not only considered outcasts, but deemed “enemies, rebels, and traitors” by the colonial government. The only sporting involved was the game of hunting and killing Indians like animals for money.  


The fact that the national media and Mr. Snyder have conducted polls on this sensitive, moral issue represents the very attitude that the colonial government and settlers demonstrated many years ago – that the life of a Native American is only worth the going rate for sport. To Mr. Snyder, Mr. Goodell, and all NFL club owners, I ask  – haven’t our Native Americans brothers and sisters suffered enough?  Have they not paid the price placed on their heads? Their scalps? Their skins? I think the answer is clear. Enough is enough.


There are many individuals and organizations whose support has been key in driving this effort forward.  However, I would like to particularly thank my dear friend Suzan Harjo of the Morning Star Institute and Amanda Blackhorse for their courage and commitment to this cause. 


I would also like to acknowledge Paul Moorehead and Jesse Witten at Drinker, Biddle & Reath.  And I express my sincerest gratitude to Congresswoman Betty McCollum and her staff, as well as Jacqueline Pata, Brian Howard, and Kellcee Baker of the National Congress of American Indians for spearheading today’s event.