Arts Desk

In Edgewood, an “American Genocide” Mural Takes Aim at the Pigskins

american genocide

When Pigskins owner Dan Snyder and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell say that the name of Washington's football honors Native AmericansGregg Deal doesn't buy it.

“People have the audacity to say this name is an honor, but I find it hard to believe that the moment a touchdown is made, and people start singing ‘Hail to the [Pigskins],’ everyone is thinking about the systematic genocide of indigenous people,” the indigenous artist says.

Deal, much of whose work takes direct aim at the Pigskins’ name and mascot, unveiled a new mural on Sunday in Edgewood during Fine Lines Mural Jam, a street-art event held by the graffiti and hip-hop nonprofit Words Beats & Life. It’s a likeness of Chief Joseph, a 19th century Nez Perce leader famed for his peace advocacy, framed in banners that read “American Genocide Reconciled Thru Football.” The mural is one of dozens painted on a 990-foot wall at 514 Rhode Island Ave. NE.

To bring his message off the wall and onto the Internet, Deal included three of the most-used hashtags in Twitter conversations about racist mascots—#changethename, #notyourmascot, and #changethemascot—and one repping Honor the Treaties, a crew of indigenous street artist-activists.


Since last June, Deal has stationed himself in public spaces (Times Square, Santa’s village at a shopping mall, and, this coming Saturday, the Cherry Blossom Festival) while sporting stereotypical Native American garb as part of a performance-art piece called “The Last American Indian on Earth.” He wears a black handprint across his mouth and sometimes holds signs: “My spirit animal is white guilt” or “Native Americans discovered Columbus.”

“Traditional Washington [Pigskin] Honor Ceremony,” a performance piece that Deal debuted at Columbia Heights venue the Dunes last month, featured a white man in Pigskins gear in front of a TV, wearing a foam finger and clutching a tallboy of Budweiser.


Deal says his art, a reflection of his own experiences as an indigenous person, offers insight that’s ignored in today’s Pigskins debates. Most high-profile discussions, like this one (hosted by Anderson Cooper, a progressive by any measure), haven’t included a Native American voice, Deal points out.

“It’s about actually looking at it from perspective of indigenous person, instead of trying to assume that’s what indigenous people think,” he says. “It’s an issue that goes back much longer than the 80 years of this football team, or the 40 years of activism to change the name.”

According to Deal, part of his new mural's power lies in its location: a neighborhood full of longtime D.C. residents, many of them the kind of diehard Pigskins fans who might take issue with a painting that brings the legacy of genocide onto the field.

“Somebody will likely come along to deface [the mural],” he says. “But street art is temporary…It’s part of the statement of the work. If it gets defaced, it'll just be proof that we need more education on these issues.”

mural look

Photos by Dakota Fine, courtesy Gregg Deal

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  • Portrait of a Native Artist

    I'd like to do a two part art project. First, photographing people in DC wearing the current merchandise and displaying those photos juxtaposed with the same image photoshopped with whatever slur for their ethnicity is onto the merchandise.

  • whiteskins

    My fantasy football team is the Whiteskins. That's the best I can do at the moment.

  • Casey Leydon

    BOOM! put it out there Brother . I got your back!

  • mike

    Whiteskins sounds more like a lacrosse team name

  • Typical DC BS

    Yawn. Is that a swarm of annoying mosquitos or liberals whining?

  • Typical DC Bitching

    Yawn. A conservative complaining about complaining.

  • Leave It Alone

    How come all these people complain about the Redskins name, but haven't gone talked to one Native American person about it in their life. Let it go

  • Leave It Alone

    How come all these people complain about the Redskins name, but haven't talked to one Native American person about it in their life. Let it go

  • meanteeth

    This is powerful and beautiful. More of this, please. Thank you, Gregg Deal.

  • 7r3y3r

    @Leave It Alone - You obviously didn't read the article. Gregg Deal is a Native American. Try again.

  • son of Washington


    You must be stupid. That is a white boy. He isn't native at all. Further you know he isn't because he will have mentioned his tribal heritage, which he didnt.

    I'm Powhatan all the way sir and I know a pale face when I see one. This is yet another white guy trying to tell minorities how they are supposed to feel. It's a damn shame. Kind of like this publication using the term pigskin instead of Redskins.

  • NotEnufRespect

    Gregg Deal is Pyramid Lake Paiute.

  • asad walker

    Typical DC BS: im a dc native and not a liberal. i just hate racism.

    Leave It Alone: gregg deal IS native american. who would you suggest he go talk to?

    son of washington: powhatan is a confederation of nations. which nation's rolls are YOU on? the article mentions that gregg deal is indigenous, but to be clear he is on the rolls as a pyramid lake paiute. your argument against someone protesting racism is filled with racist terms: "white boy", "pale face", making you sound doubly stupid. try to come up to our level and have an intelligent conversation.