2020 True West Award Reclaiming One Star

Component GradientStart is not available in React's context. It is defined in agility, however. Please check React Dev tools for props.

'R*dsk*ns is a word that really should be right up there with the n-word in people's consciousness.'

– Suzan Shown Harjo

By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist

This is not to suggest for one second that the reason Washington’s NFL franchise finally dropped its deeply embedded racist nickname last summer was because, just four months earlier, the DCPA Theatre Company presented a new play calling for the team to finally drop its deeply embedded racist nickname.

No, the team finally dropped its deeply embedded racist nickname because of the reckoning that followed the police murder of George Floyd. Namely, when major sponsor FedEx publicly urged team owner Dan Snyder to step away from the name “R*dsk*ns,” and team investors joined in support.

In other words: Washington’s NFL franchise finally dropped its deeply embedded racist nickname only when it became financially threatening to an owner who had been quoted in USA Today as saying: “We'll never change the name. It's that simple. NEVER. … And you can use caps.”

Until July 13 ... when HE DID.

It’s just nice when the timing on these things works out just right.

'Non-Native Americans do not own Native identity. We are not the property of non-Native Americans. And our identity is not for sale, period.' – Mary Kathryn Nagle

Reclaiming One Star” became a historically significant play the moment DCPA Artistic Director Chris Coleman commissioned attorney Mary Kathryn Nagle to write it with activist Suzan Shown Harjo, who has been at the forefront of every major battle for Native rights for the past six decades.

When it was presented as a featured reading at the 2020 Colorado New Play Summit in February, it became the first story written by indigenous women ever to be told on a Denver Center stage in its 40-year history. Asked what that milestone meant to her, Harjo told me in an interview, “In a word: Everything.”

2020 True West Awards Mary Kathryn Nagle and Suzan Shown Harjo'Reclaiming One Star' playwrights Suzan Shown Harjo, left, and Mary Kathryn Nagle.

The name change was something Harjo had been working to make happen for 58 of the team’s 88 years in existence. She had spent 17 of those years as lead plaintiff in a lawsuit to change the name, but to no avail.

2020 True West Awards Washington RedskinsThe play destroys the myth behind the false lore that has been passed down for generations by the Washington R*dsk*ns. (The vowels are omitted here at the request of the playwrights.) The team claims the nickname pays homage to its first coach, allegedly a “full-blooded Sioux.” But in truth, William “Lone Star” Dietz (a man of German descent) had been sent to jail back in 1919 for stealing the identity of a young Native American  soldier named James One Star who had died in World War I. He did it so he could play on a prestigious all-Native American football team coached by the legendary Pop Warner. But back in those days, a person’s criminal record didn’t follow him quite so stickily as it might today. And so, the lie lived on.

"Reclaiming One Star," equal parts detective thriller and courtroom drama, gives an inside look at the real-life legal intrigue behind the case, including those who defend the team’s original name.

'Sixty cents for men, 40 cents for women, 20 cents for children.' – Suzan Shown Harjo

For the record: “What’s so offensive about the name is the skinning of our people for bounty pay,” Harjo said. “Colonies and companies and later whole states issued bounties for dead Indians. And they skinned us. They actually took our skin and our body parts into the bounty payers to collect their blood money. The scalps were the proof of dead Indians they needed. Sixty cents for men, 40 cents for women, 20 cents for children. Now, how do you know the age and the gender without scalping the private parts of the person? That’s the horror, and that’s the nightmare that’s called up when we hear that term.

“R*dsk*ns is a word that really should be right up there with the n-word in people's consciousness.”

Nagle describes the naming controversy as a simple case of ownership. “It’s an open-and-shut case of racial and cultural appropriation. Non-Native Americans do not own Native identity,” she said. “We are not the property of non-Native Americans. And our identity is not for sale, period.”

2020 True Wst Awards Reclaiming One Star castNo one who attended the Colorado New Play Summit reading in February could have realistically expected the team’s 88-years of entrenchment to crumble just a few months later. Still, there was something both reverent and magical about watching the story come to life at the Denver Center on sacred ground that was once home to Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Utes and a variety of other Native peoples.

The play, which included Oscar winner Wes Studi among its cast, spoke to the power of live theatre to help audiences gain a better understanding of unfamiliar societal issues. To perhaps recalibrate engrained or previously unchallenged assumptions. To better grasp the ongoing damage of harmful stereotypes.

It was a monumental achievement for Harjo, who is Cheyenne and Muscogee. She has worked to eliminate more than 4,000 racist mascots from elementary schools, high schools, colleges and professional sports teams since 1962 – including playing an instrumental role in persuading Arvada High School to change its nickname from R*dsk*ns to Reds in 1993 (and its mascot from an Indian to a bulldog). In 2014, Harjo was conferred the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama.

It has been five months since the R*dsk*ns announced they will adopt a new nickname but, now well into the 2020 season, they have not yet settled on one. Instead, the team is going by the most awkward temporary name in all of sports; “The Washington NFL Football Team.” That’s in part because team ownership has not only been distracted by allegations of workplace sexual harassment, it’s become the victim of some greed of its own. The team reportedly knows what nickname it wants to use next, but dozens of opportunists beat them to the punch by preemptively filing trademarks for more than 30 potential names. Which means one of those cagey entrepreneurs is in for a very big payday – at the team’s expense.

Read our extended interviews with the playwrights

Harjo will wait to celebrate her victory until she sees just how far the football team is willing to fully distance itself from its past. “I’m pleased with the progress, but we’ve been close before,” Harjo told The Washington Post. "We’ve learned that you don’t dance in the end zone just because you got close to the goal line. You dance after you score." 

On top of everything else: Harjo learned of the team's reversal while recovering from the coronavirus last July.

“COVID is giving me a greater sense of mortality and a renewed urgency to do what I can do — now,” she said. “There is a greater need to get some things settled — on the streets, in the boardrooms, in the kitchens — because more of us have become aware that our country is on shaky ground.”

Video bonus: Our interview with Mary Kathryn Nagle

'Reclaiming One Star'

A DCPA Theatre Company Commission and featured reading at the 2020 Colorado New Play Summit

  • By Suzan Shown Harjo and Mary Kathryn Nagle
  • Directed by Madeline Sayet
  • Dramaturgy by Doug Langworthy

Cast and crew:

  • Tunkasitku James One Star/Tony One Star: Kenny Ramos
  • Ateya Uncle One Star/Leksi Albert One Star: Wes Studi
  • Sallie Eagle Horse /Tashina (Tash) One Star: Nathalie Standingcloud
  • Angel De Cora/Sage: DeLanna Studi
  • William Dietz/Daniel Snyder: Leigh Miller
  • Richard Henry Pratt/Attorney: Timothy McCracken
  • White Chorus Woman: Tara Falk
  • White Chorus Man: Brian Shea

2020 True West Award Reclaiming One Star

Home,Reignite the Arts,Donate Now,Donate Now,Corporate Giving,Art Circle,2024-2025 Theatre Season,Renew,Visit Us,View All Events,Roland Bernier: In Other Words,Word Play,Lola Montejo: After Another After,Floyd D. Tunson: Ascent,Anthony Garcia Sr: Pigment,Pamela Webb: Hand + Hammer,Lauri Lynnxe Murphy: Seeing the Trees For the Forest,Pink Progression: Collaborations,Imprint: Print Educators of Colorado,528.0: Regional Juried Printmaking Exhibition,Wood.Works,Carley Warren: Three Pieces,Viral Influence: Art in the Time of Coronavirus,Brady Smith: (Don’t be embarrassed by) Your Trouble with Living,Melody Epperson: 100 Years + 1,Blurring The Line,Narkita Gold: Black In Denver,Art of the State 2022,One Sheet,Colorado Abstract +10: A Survey,Gary Staab: Second Nature,Flora: Scientific Botanical Illustrations of Colorado Plants,Art + Science,Jeffco Schools Foundation High School Art Exhibition,Wendy Kowynia: Following the Thread,Bueno: Mark Bueno,Denver Gay Men's Chorus: Divas, Icons and Justice Warriors,The Denver Brass: In Pursuit of Leisure,A Night at the Movies with the Colorado Symphony,Toad the Wet Sprocket and Cracker,Ramón Bonilla: The boundary lines have fallen in pleasant places for me.,Keb' Mo',Boz Scaggs,Lucero,The Ladies of Soul,Ben Folds,Drawn: From The Source,Day of African Culture,Cleo Parker Robinson Dance presents Living the Lush Life,Face Vocal Band,George Thorogood and the Destroyers,Indigo Girls,Big Draw Colorado,Collective Soul,Rockley Instrument Sale,Allyship & Advocacy in Action: Supporting the LGBTQAI+ Community,Beautiful - The Carole King Musical,Fine Art Market,Holiday Pottery Sale,Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812,A Year With Frog and Toad,Spin Doctors with Cracker,Lyle the Crocodile,Mozart Under Moonlight,Melissa Etheridge: I’m Not Broken Tour,Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder,Tower of Power,Corinne Bailey Rae,Preservation Hall Jazz Band,The High Kings and Gaelic Storm,Big Richard,Kaleidoscope,Denver Brass presents: Brass, Camera, Action,Denver Gay Men's Chorus: Shout!,Swing, Swing, Swing: Benny and Beyond ,Spring Pottery Sale,53rd Annual Jeffco Schools Foundation High School Art Exhibition,Matt Christie: Between Then and Now,Robin Cole: Genesis,3rd Law Dance/Theater,Emilio Lobato: A Mi Manera A 40-Year Survey,Latitude 37° Art of Southern Colorado,Colcha Embroidery of the San Luis Valley,The Laramie Project,The Laramie Project Talkbacks with Judy and Dennis Shepard,Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella,Hazel Miller and the Collective: Christmas with Soul,Noises Off,Exhibition Tour and Artist Talk with Sue Oehme,Latin Sounds From Legendary Artists,Big Band Royalty: Nothin’ But the Blues,Sue Oehme Inclusions,Artist Proof: Print Process at Oehme Graphics,I Regret to Inform You…Rejected Public Art,inFORMed Space: Perspectives in Sculpture,Salon des Refusés: Rejects Pop-Up and Performance Event,So…You Want to be a Public Artist: Navigating Rejection in Art,CJRO Presents: Lady Sings the Groove with Tatiana LadyMay Mayfield,Voices of Honor,A Tribute to Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops,Standing for Humanity in Gaza and Israel ,Orquesta Akokán with Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen,Kingfish,Yola, Community Cultural Celebration and Concert with Baaba Maal,Dining Partners,Amplify,Theatre,Upcoming Shows,2024-2025 Theatre Season,Renew,Performances for Students,Auditions,Galleries,Current Exhibitions,Gallery Events,Upcoming Exhibitions,Art Sales,Art Submissions,Sculpture Field,History Museum,Archive,Education,View All Classes,Summer Camps,Full Day,Summer Camp Performances,FAQ,Spring Break Camps,Classes for Kids,Classes for Adults,Ceramics,Front Range Youth Symphony,Dance Classes,Links and Forms,Arts Day,Arts Day Outreach,Ageless Adults,Scholarships,Yesterado,Yesterado,Field Trips and Outreach,ECE Field Trips,K-5 Field Trips,Middle and High School Field Trips,Outreach Programs,Preschool Partnership Program,Music and Dance,Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra,Summer Concerts,Humanities,Private Event Rentals,Caterers,Vendors,Straight Talk Series ,Straight Talk with Philip Sneed,COVID’s toll on Colorado theatre: 224 productions and counting ,Straight Talk with Lynne Collins,Straight Talk with Rod Lansberry,Straight Talk with Phamaly, Buntport, Colorado Shakes and Rocky Mountain Rep,Straight Talk with Creede Rep, Town Hall, Candlelight and Theatre Company of Lafayette,Straight Talk with Aurora Fox, BDT Stage, Cherry Creek Theatre and Misfits,Straight Talk with Su Teatro, Vintage, Backstage and Counterweight,Straight Talk with Local Theater Company, Theater 29, The Source and Equinox,Straight Talk with the Denver Center, Jesters Dinner Theatre, Glenwood Vaudeville Revue and Germinal Stage-Denver,Actors' union issues safety guidelines for re-opening,Straight Talk with square product, Forge Light, Springs Ensemble Theatre and Coal Creek Theatre of Louisville,Straight Talk with the Fine Arts Center, Miners Alley Playhouse, Dangerous Theatre and Lone Tree Arts Center ,Straight Talk with Lake Dillon Theatre Company, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and Northglenn Arts,Straight Talk with The Catamounts, Bas Bleu and Thingamajig,Straight Talk with Curious Theatre Company,Straight Talk with OpenStage, Firehouse and Adams Mystery Playhouse,Straight Talk with Platte Valley Players and Theatreworks,Straight Talk with Parker Arts, Stories on Stage and Thunder River ,Staight Talk 2 with Philip Sneed: This much is uncertain,Arvada Center News,Getting to Know The Big Tuna,Getting to Know: Keith Ewer and his Hammered Dulcimer,Understanding Farce in Theatre,2024 Summer Concert Series Playlist Volume 1,2024 Summer Concert Series artists and who they sound like,Pivoting With,Pivoting with The Black Actors Guild,Pivoting with ... Emily Van Fleet and Nathan Jones,Pivoting With ... Tammy Franklin and the Curtain Playhouse,Pivoting With Nick Sugar and the Town Hall Arts Center,Pivoting With Helen Murray and the Aurora Fox,Pivoting with Edith Weiss and Christy Montour Larson,Pivoting With Scott RC Levy and the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company,Pivoting with Todd Debrecini for Halloween,Pivoting with Ashley Campbell,Pivoting with Meghan Anderson Doyle,Pivoting with Jenna Moll Reyes,Pivoting with Erik Fellenstein,Pivoting with Ray Bailey ,Pivoting with Tara Falk,Community News,Inside the Arvada Center,All About Printmaking Techniques,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Collin Parson ,Christina Noel-Adcock,"Bright Star" cast unveils video as message of hope,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Christine Moore,Humans of the Arvada Center: Steven Cogswell,Humans of the Arvada Center: Ashi K. Smythe,City of Arvada to install new sculpture in Hoskinson Park,Humans of the Arvada Center Jessie Page,Humans of the Arvada Center Cal Meakins,Humans of the Arvada Center: Adam Stolte,Supreme Court workplace ruling hits home for Lisa Leafgreen,'Time for talk is over': Arvada Center launch 'Amplify' series to raise black male voices,Humans of the Arvada Center Jon Olson ,Humans of the Arvada Center: Abygail Rosales,Revealing The Dialogue,Amplify Epiode 3 launches, series expanding to include black women,Photo Blog: Sweeney Todd Rehearsals,Humans of the Arvada Center: Gabriel Morales,Cleo Parker Robinson dances back in the box with Arvada Center,Amplify turns the mic over to local Black women ,Beth Malone bringing 'joy bomb' to Arvada Center oon September 4,Humans of the Arvada Center: Meet Emily King,Amplify Women Episode 2,Special Book Honors Special Dance Teacher,amplify-series-comes-to-powerful-conclusion,Take a stroll through 'Sculpture in the Field',Lessons from a summer of outdoor theatre in the time of COVID ,Humans of the Arvada Center: John Hamilton,Doreen Montalvo in Denver: Compassion and grit,Betty Hart's presidential promise: Build a bigger tent,Humans of the Arvada Center: Brenna Clendaniel and Sophia Koop,On being Black in Denver and all the colors that it brings,2020 True West Awards: Buntpivot ,2020 True West Awards: Lily Bradford,2020 True West Awards: The Scenesters,2020 True West Awards: Podcastic,2020 True West Awards: Phamaly takes 'Honk' to Japan,2020 True West Awards: Christine Moore,2020 True West Awards: Alive Inside,2020 True West Awards: Michael Ensminger,True West Awards: They Wrote the Book,True West Awards: Rent-A-Pals,True West Awards: Of Spacious Skies,True West Awards: Christopher Page-Sanders,2020 True West Awards: Suffer the little children,2020 True West Awards: Spirit of Giving,2020 True West Awards: Secret Gardeners,2020 True West Awards: Denis Berkfeldt,2020 True West Awards: Amplify,2020 True West Awards: Reclaiming One Star,2020 True West Awards: William Hahn and Jessica Robblee,2020 True West Awards: Lisa Wagner Erickson,20 for 20,Meet the Frasers,Lucy Roucis' final act is a gutpunch,Reunite the Arts Collin Parson,Jodie Steeves and Nancy Terry,Reunite the Arts Lisa Leafgreen,Remembering John Gratkins,Reunite the Arts: From our CEO,Danielle Johnson Q&A,Reunite the Arts Lynne Collins,The Show Must Go On,Diana and Mike Kinsey,Get to Know Kazu Oba,Meet Suzanna Champion,The Gear of Million Dollar Quartet,FRYS and the Symphony,Get to Know Carlou D,Stories From the Studio,Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Lares Feliciano,21 for 21,An interview with Geoffrey Kent: The Liar,An interview with Jada Suzanne Dixon: Stick Fly,An interview with Jessica Robblee: Animal Farm,Fast Facts About Kinky Boots,Costume Department Boots Up,Rod A Lansberry Announces Retirement from Arvada Center,Lynne Collins Named Artistic Director of Arvada Center Theatre,Getting to Know José González,Getting to Know Joan Osborne and Madeleine Peyroux,The Many Sounds of Carlou D,Setting the mood: Into the Woods Set Designer Brian Mallgrave,Into the Woods Directors Note,The River Bride Director's Note,What is Magical Realism?,Hispanic Heritage Month: Meet Ana María Hernando,Meet Ceramics Artist Luanne Burke,From student to teacher: Hadley’s story,Tackling the Beast,Things to Know About Our Town,Creating the Look of Our Town: A Q and A with Set Designer Brian Mallgrave,Whatever Lola Wants - A Deep Dive into the Damn Yankees Signature Song,Selling Your Soul - A Pop Culture Favorite,The Book Club Play Reads,Metatheatre Elements in Our Town - When a Play Knows It's a Play,90s Throwback Vibe with Arvada Center 2023 Summer Concert Series,Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra at the Arvada Center,Opening Acts of the Arvada Center 2023 Summer Concert Series,Getting to know Baaba Maal,Big Draw Highlights,The Music of Keb' Mo,Getting to Know Lucero,The People at the Indigo Girls ,Listen to the hits of Carole King with this playlist,Carole King: The Writer Behind The Music,Songs inspired by Matthew Shepard,Summer Internship at The Arvada Center,Arvada Center journeys to Southern Colorado : A Photo Diary,Arvada Center and Colorado Chapter of Free Mom Hugs share the love,Costume Inspiration for Cinderella with Costume Designer Madison Booth,Getting to Know: iZCALLi and ArtistiCO,The Many Faces of Cinderella,Arvada Center awarded Social Impact Theatre Grant from Biller Family Foundation,The music that influenced the music of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,Volunteer,About Us,Ticketing Policies,Authorized Ticketing,Group Tickets,Ticket Discounts,Contact Us,Accessibility,Health and Safety,Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access,Careers,Tours,Adopt An Artwork,Temp,Land Acknowledgement,What To Expect at the Theatre,One Sheet Music,Gift Certificates,Privacy Policy,Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet Seat Map,Gala,Gala Sponsors,Errors,404,Natasha and Pierre Synopsis,Concessions,Summer Preorders