Research

Superbowl XLVIII took place on February 2nd, 2014, at the MetLife Stadium located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Not being a sports fan, I don’t normally pay much attention to anything related to the Superbowl. However, this year, I happened to notice a series of tweets protesting the Superbowl and stating that it was taking place on Native American lands. My curiosity was piqued, and I decided to look a bit deeper into this subject. My preliminary searches brought up a few interesting points:

  • The National Congress of American Indians released an ad during Superbowl weekend, titled “Proud to Be.” As of February 6th 2014, the video on YouTube has already accumulated over one million hits since it was uploaded on January 27. The video speaks about the many names of different Native American tribes and the many diverse roles they have within their culture. It ends with a protest against the name “Redskins,” stating this is a name their people would never use.
  • The video includes a link to “ChangetheMascot.org,” a site devoted to urging the NFL to “end the use of the racial slur “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in Washington, D.C.
  • I also found some protests on Twitter, stating that East Rutherford, NJ, where the Superbowl was being held, is “occupied Native American land.” Some basic web searches brought me to the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce website. The brief history listed there confirms that the land was originally settled by the Lenape, long before European settlers moved here.
  • Some basic historical research reveals that the Lenape were exposed to smallpox in the early 1600s, along with a number of other diseases. Between disease and warfare, the Lenape population suffered greatly, and “by 1750 it is estimated that the Lenape lost almost 90% of their people.”
  • Many of the Lenape eventually relocated to Oklahoma and Canada, but after some further searching I found that the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation still lives in New Jersey and the area around the Deleware Bay. Their headquarters is now located in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey, about 120 miles from where the Superbowl was held.

All of this preliminary research shows me that there is a lot of ground to cover on this topic. In addition to the initial topic of the Superbowl and the protests against racism and oppression, there is also a lot of history and culture to be uncovered right here in New Jersey. I plan to apply this research to an article that may end up specifically focusing on the racial issues raised by the “Proud to Be” video, or instead focus on other local issues faced by the Lenape nation here in New Jersey, or possibly end up going in another direction as my research reveals more related topics. My initial plan is to gather as much information as I can, in order to narrow down a focal area that I can use as the main topic of the article I plan to write.

One of the obvious target publications if I focus on the Superbowl/Redskins name change angle is Sports Illustrated. A search of their website reveals a number of articles on the subject, including a recent one quoting Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner as saying that “nine out of ten Native Americans support the Redskins’ name.” The number of articles on the subject shows that there is an interest in this area, but I was unable to find any that specifically addressed more focused issues, such as the fact that the Superbowl took place on former Native American lands. The lack of previous articles on these more focused areas may mean that the magazine would be open to something new and fresh.

Another possibility is Native Peoples Magazine. This magazine is more specifically focused on Native American culture, including interviews with interesting Native American people. Their website specifically states that part of their mission is “to provide a ‘sensitive portrayal’ of the Native peoples of the Americas,” so it seems like an ideal place for an article that speaks on Native American culture and offers the viewpoints of Native Americans themselves on current social issues.

A less focused publication that publishes articles on general social issues is The Nation. They specifically seek articles related to civil liberties and civil rights, and a search of their online archives reveals several articles related to the debate surrounding the Redskins’ name change.

Research into this topic should be quite extensive. It’s a subject I’m not familiar with, considering that the only real experience I have with learning about Native American history and culture was what I learned in grade school. Since I’ll be going into this subject with nothing more than the general “common knowledge” level of understanding, I won’t have any preconceived ideas or biases and that should help me to explore this subject with an open mind. In addition, I’ve never engaged in deep research into this sort of social, cultural, and historical topic before. My primary research areas in the past have been related to communication studies and gender issues, so this will be new ground for me.

Furthermore, since the subject has both local areas of research (from the Lenape nation in South Jersey to the East Rutherford lands in North Jersey) and more far-reaching areas (since the Redskins’ name debate is a nationwide issue), there will be a lot of ground to cover. The fact that the Superbowl took place in New Jersey this year may even add a unique perspective to any research, since I may find more local issues and perspectives that can be related to the greater debate.

As I continue with this research, I’ll be posting my findings under a research category on the blog. Also, additional practice research and reflections on research methods themselves will be posted under a secondary category.

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Note: This post was originally a “page” before I figured out how to do some rearrangements that compiled all research posts into a single category listed as a menu item. In order to preserve the content when I took the “page” down, everything from that page was copied into a new post. Original comments are compiled below as screenshots since WordPress unfortunately deletes them along with the page, and there was no way to convert them. I didn’t want to lose the comments and the discussion that took place in them.

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