Daines Demands Washington Commanders Make It Right with Wetzel Family, Honor Native American Heritage

“Make no mistake, this logo was inspired and envisioned by Wetzel as a tribute to Native Americans. It is not a caricature. It is a depiction of pride and strength. Of courage and honor.”

U.S. Senator Steve Daines, ranking member of the Senate National Parks subcommittee, today highlighted the story of Blackie Wetzel and the origins of the Redskins logo. Daines then demanded that the Washington Commanders football team and the National Football League (NFL) work with the Wetzel family to honor this legacy and Native American communities.

Watch Daines’ remarks HERE. For TV elements click HERE. For pictures from the hearing, click HERE.

Daines’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

“At today’s hearing we also have H.R.4984, the D.C. Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium Campus Revitalization Act. This bill transfers the administration over RFK Memorial Stadium Campus from the Park Service to the District of Columbia for 99 years. The purpose of this transfer is for the development of a new stadium as well as other commercial and residential development.

“Now, you may ask why a Montana Senator has a specific interest in this bill. Today is about righting a wrong. Specifically, my goal is for the Washington Commanders to honor the pride, history and heritage of the Blackfeet Tribe who are my constituents in Montana for the tribe’s contributions to the team’s legacy.

“Here is the story: Behind me is a photograph from the 1960s of Blackie Wetzel and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Blackie Wetzel was a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana and served his people and the country in many roles throughout his life, including as Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe and the President of the National Congress of American Indians. 

“In 1971 Blackie met with George Herbert Allen, who was then the Head Coach and General Manager of the Washington Redskins. Knowing that Coach Allen admired and supported Native Americans, Blackie Wetzel encouraged him to replace the team’s ‘R’ logo with something that represented Indian Country.

“Blackie brought Coach Allen designs based off prominent Native American figures including Blackfeet Chief Two Guns White Calf. Behind me you will see the logo and a photo of Chief Two Guns White Calf. The clear depiction of Chief Two Guns White Calf is beyond dispute.

“On behalf of the team, Coach Allen adopted the now iconic logo that’s placed prominently on this beautiful helmet that I received from former players. I am proud to display it today.

“Make no mistake, this logo was inspired and envisioned by Wetzel as a tribute to Native Americans. It is not a caricature. It is a depiction of pride and strength. Of courage and honor.

“As Blackie Wetzel said in 2002, ‘It made us all so proud to have an Indian on a big-time team.’

“And I would add that historically Native Americans serve our country in uniform at the highest percentage per capita of any ethnic group. They are Warriors for our country.

“Now you know the history, I’d like to talk about the future. First, let me be clear, I am not calling for the return of the former team name which has become increasingly controversial, especially in Indian Country.

“But the logo itself remains a point of pride for many in Indian country and specifically the Wetzel family. The failure to properly honor the pride and history embodied by the iconic logo must be made right by both the new team ownership and the NFL. Doing so would honor the Blackfeet tribe, my constituents, in Montana.

“Showing proper recognition to the contributions of Native Americans is also fitting for our capital region. As the National Parks Service website points out, ‘Our nation’s capital is full of American Indian heritage.’

“Simply look outside at the names in the region. For example, the Potomac River, the Quantico Marine Corps Base, and the Chesapeake Bay watershed that spans across much of the geographical region that makes up Washington’s fan base.

“What I am demanding is straightforward: that the new team leadership and the NFL sit down with the Wetzel family, sit down with the Blackfeet, sit down with tribal leaders, and find a way to properly honor the history of the logo and heritage of our tribal nations, and to rededicate the organization as an advocate for Indian Country.

“That effort could take many different forms: It might result in restoring the logo with a new team name that is supported by tribal leaders and will bring unity across communities. It could also be telling the history of the logo’s connection to the Wetzel family and honoring the native communities it represents. It could be resuming merchandise sales featuring the logo and using a portion of the proceeds to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and other tribal causes.  

“For example, on the NFL website, you can buy a retro Houston Oilers jersey with the old logo, but nowhere on the website can you find merchandise with this logo for sale. The new owners and the NFL have the opportunity to heal old wounds, work with families and enter into a new era.

“They can properly honor the heritage of the Wetzel family, the Blackfeet tribe, Native Americans across the United States, former players and the community as a whole.

“The team can be a beacon of light for these communities, but until I see meaningful actions that satisfy the Wetzel family and other tribal stakeholders, I cannot support this legislation.”