"The first known public use of "redskin" in English occurred on Aug. 22, 1812, in Washington at a meeting between Madison and a group of visiting Indian chiefs.
Madison, worried about possible alliances between Indian tribes and the enemy British, delivered a long, stylized plea liberally sprinkled with the expressions "red people," "red tribes" and "my red children."
In response, Little Osage chief Sans Oreilles (No Ears) pledged loyalty despite provocations against his tribe and noted that "I know the manners of the whites and of the red skins." Then Sioux chief French Crow, making much the same argument, said: "I am a red-skin, but what I say is the truth, and notwithstanding I came a long way, I am content, but wish to return from there."
Goddard acknowledged it is impossible to know whether the chiefs said "redskin" in their own languages, but interpreters in many contexts and with many tribes in this time period treated the word as an expression that only Indians used. The same is true of "white-skin."
Three years after the Washington encounter, Black Thunder spoke at Portage des Sioux, and his use of "redskin" made its way into print, as did the words of other chieftains. Once in popular culture, the expression began to lose its ceremonial context -- even as it acquired the connotations that Native Americans have come to loathe.
An 1871 novel spoke of "redskinned devils." The Rocky Mountain News in 1890 described a war on the whites by "every greasy redskin." The Denver Daily News the same year reported a rebellion by "the most treacherous red skins."
Papers submitted in the case against the football team documented humiliating movie references by Hollywood icons Eddie Cantor, Bob Hope, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and others. In "Northwest Passage," Spencer Tracy, as a colonial explorer who hates Indians, importunes a subordinate to "Get a redskin for me, won't you?"
The final message, Shoemaker suggested, is that "even if the Indians were the first to use it, the origin has no relationship to later use. What happened at the beginning doesn't justify it today.
This post was edited on 3/21 at 9:44 pm