The Native Voice

Just who is Ray Halbritter?

Ray Halbritter

Over the past few years, the name of the Washington Redskins Football team has come under attack by many groups, including portions of the government and media. The claim these individuals have is they say the team name itself has historical beginnings as a derogatory or racist tag and that it offends Native Americans, even though the latest conducted voting polls of Natives prove otherwise.

What has become shockingly clear is that the media nor the government seems interested in the opinions of those who support the team name and view it as a badge of honor and respect. I believe this is because those who have openly opposed the name ultimately have a ‘PC’ or politically correct agenda at hand and don’t want the other side of the story to get out. Since my opinion may be considered invalid, I sought out Native Americans who support the name and are willing to speak on it. In the coming weeks, their voices will be heard here at

Just who is Ray Halbritter?

Today we will talk about the story of Melvin Phillips, a full-blooded Oneida Indian, speaking for the Orchard Party/ Marble Hill Oneidas from Oneida County, New York. Phillips doesn’t see anything wrong with the Redskins name but has issues with who is fighting to have it changed.

“If these people were doing other than playing football; if they were making fun of Indians, or downing Indians, I’d be against it. But these people don’t do that. They play football”, Phillips said.

Phillips is a direct descendant of the “home party” from the June 25, 1842, treaty with the Orchard Party, who chose not to leave the State of New York under the Treaty of Buffalo Creek in 1838. He still owns the land known only as “lot two and three” and the burial grounds; he is the last remaining of the full-blooded Oneida.

In all essence, it’s less than 100 acres of farmland that Mr. Phillips is protecting; the story lies in what exactly the state and the Oneida Indian Nation plan on doing with Mr. Phillips’ property. New York Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is also Melvin Phillips’ attorney and has been working pro-bono (for free) for Phillips for ten years now (she is also currently running for Congress). Tenney appeared on our friend IronSkin’s podcast (SportsArena) on Wednesday to discuss Phillips’ case and talk with the round-table (featuring Mark One Wolf,  Janine Vandenberg, and Billy Williams).

The story Tenney tells us about Melvin Phillips gives an inside look at just who Ray Halbritter is.

“The legislature (for the land deal) was rushed through by the New York State governor, Mario Cuomo (in Mr Phillips case) in order to push it through with no opposition.  This whole Redskins name crusade is a distraction; he’s trying to make himself into a hero. I don’t think he even cares about the name change at all; Halbritter seems to be doing this as a boost for his ego. It’s a phony way of him getting national recognition. Years ago when the land was given to the Oneida ‘s the deal was it was there land unless they left it, which most of them did. The ones that stayed were in a little tiny area that’s less than 36 acres (100 acres total but mainly farmland). Nobody cared about this land until after the casinos were approved in 1988.”

“I care about Melvin’s story, you know, you meet someone in life that is the true article, truly the real deal, and he impressed me. He grew up in hard times, living in poor conditions and all they had was their treaty clause. Many of them were treated like lesser citizens, Melvin lived that life. Halbriter, isn’t even a quarter Indian. Melvin’s thing is “why are you trying to take my land after you promised you weren’t going to do this to our family. How could you do that, and in the same breathe say you are trying to help Native Americans?”

“I asked him, since I know he has been treated badly in his life, how he felt about the Redskins name. He said, “as long as they are not denigrating them in some negative way he didn’t have an issue.” You know, we looked into the Redskins name, and he said he actually believes it was meant to honor our culture. Words change over time, and become different, now you look at it and think maybe no one would name a team that, but the term was used by Natives first and a lot of people believe it is being done to honor them. Melvin said, “hey we used to be on the nickel, but then someone thought it was racist and now no one remembers us anymore.””

Ray Halbritter has been the Nation Representative of Oneida Indian Nation Inc. since 1975 and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of its enterprises since 1990. Halbritter is also the man leading the charge to change the Washington Redskins name.

One would think that the individual or group of individuals who are leading the name-change charge would at least look into how the man they tapped to lead the way has treated his own people. This story reeks of corruption at the top level and also points to something else if no one reports the truth, how will people learn it? It’s obvious that the national media wants nothing to do with any story Halbritter is involved in. Case and point, Tenney went on to speak about how the national media was invited to Mr. Phillips’ property; she was hoping they were there to do a feature story on Phillips, but she was wrong.

“One of the things we did was we setup a meeting with the Washington Post. I taped all the interviews we did, we had a photographer come down and we were meeting with the photographer, it was a rainy day and we showed them the burial grounds and the maps, the whole history. We did that over the phone with the journalist and told her what was really going on and the photographer went and took a lot of pictures.. When she was done, I found this interesting, she flew into Syracuse (before the meeting), which is maybe an half an hour or 45 minutes away and she said can you help me get back. I said, “are you heading to Syracuse”, she said, “well I gotta get to my hotel.” I said “Oh you’re staying in Syracuse near the airport”, she said, “No I’m staying at the “Turning Stone” (Halbritters casino)”. So she was staying at the casino with Halbritters people. So after all this time and effort, when the story came out, they never even mentioned Melvin’s name and all it ended up being was a “puff” piece for Ray Halbritter.

The AP press wire wouldn’t talk on it…we brought in a wonderful journalist afterwards. She came in, did a wonderful story, had great pictures, she put the whole thing on and held up the document I got from the archives stating Halbritter wasn’t Oneida, and we talked about all the issues with the land. The next thing we knew, they killed the story on TV, that night. She called and apologized saying “they just won’t run it because he spends so much in advertising and such.” It’s hard, when you have the money to control media, it makes it very hard to get a message out.”

“I was really discouraged after all the time we put into the articles with the Washington Post and the case and all the facts with court and they didn’t even run the part about him throwing his own cousin off the land.”

Those words said by Tenney should make us all understand a piece of what is going on behind the scenes in the midst of this name-change debate. There is a reason that the voices of Native Americans who oppose a name change are not being heard, and it sits right in the heart of DC itself. The number one reason the story is not getting out is that the mainstream media is in Ray Halbritter’s back pocket. I’ve often wondered why it was that Mike Wise of the Washington Post never has anyone of his “contacts” on a live broadcast speaking of how the name is horrible or why he has never done any feature articles speaking about the not-so-quiet-anymore 90% majority that supports the Redskins name. It also makes sense why the Post jumps at every chance they get to write something bad about the team or, especially, Daniel Snyder.

I think the question that Redskins fans and people, in general, all over this country should be asking themselves is….just how deep does the rabbit hole go. I know that this publication, for one is not afraid of Mr. Halbritter’s deep pockets or those who support him. We will continue our search for every bit of truth, and when each piece is found…it will be written.

The interview with New York Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney is below, and you can read the full (in-depth) story of Melvin Phillips by CLICKING HERE!

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