Before Washington Redskins controversy, Louisville had Seneca


by Sherrell Hubbard

Posted on June 11, 2014 at 6:53 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 11 at 6:57 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A group of Native Americans released a powerful new ad calling on the NFL to change the name of the Washington Redskins. 

The ad, which has become a viral video, is from the National Congress of Native Americans.  The two-minute commercial aired during the NBA Finals on Tuesday night on WHAS11 and ABC.  It was seen by an audience of more than 10 million people.

It says, “Native Americans call themselves many things, the one thing they don’t…,“ the commercial cuts to a shot of a Washington Redskins helmet.  The Washington Redskins owner has called the name a badge of honor. 

While he has vowed to never change the name, a Kentucky High School did when faced with the same dilemma decades ago. 

Seneca High School’s mascot is now the Redhawks but prior to the 1990s the school was known as the Seneca Redskins.  Seneca High School's old mascot, a figure named “Lonesome Polecat,” was voted out by students more than two decades ago. 

Grover Sales is the head of the Seneca High School Alumni Association named “Seneca Past and Present.”  He recalls when the RedSkins became the Redhawks.

"It was a time in the world when political correctness was important,” Sales said. “The Shawnee Indians became the Shawnee Golden Eagles. All the Schools in Jefferson County that had an Indian connected name were forced to change." 

Sales said some alums were sad to see the old mascot go.

"We didn't alienate an Indian tribe; Lonesome Polecat is a cartoon character.  Never was an Indian tribe named after him, so who did we hurt?"

Sales is not Native American but he says he will identify as a redskin for the rest of his life.  He said "I'll be a Redskin till the day I die.”

Native American Charlotte Harrison is a member of the Nezpierce tribe.  She feels differently about the word. 

“It wasn't meant to bring pride or character to that race.  It was usually meant to be savage, unacceptable, brutal," she said. 

Harrison said if the name is offending people, it needs to change. 

"We've had enough, we've had enough of being bashed and slandered and misrepresented," she said.

Harrison said calling a Native American a redskin is as offensive as referring to an African-American with the 'N' word.