Redskins Owner: Tribes Have Much More to Worry About Than Team's Name

By Susan Jones | March 25, 2014 | 8:01 AM EDT

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder (AP File Photo)

( - Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder isn't backing away from his team's controversial name. But he is stepping up to help Native Americans.

On Tuesday, he plans to announce the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation -- which will provide "meaningful and measurable resources" and "genuine opportunities" to tribal communities.

In an open letter to "Everyone in our Washington Redskins Nation," Snyder said his foundation "will work as partners to begin to tackle the troubling realities facing so many tribes across our country. Our efforts will address the urgent challenges plaguing Indian country based on what Tribal leaders tell us they need most."

Snyder says he spent four months traveling to tribal reservations in 20 states -- "to listen and learn" about Native Americans' "views, attitudes, and experiences."

"I wanted and needed to hear firsthand what Native Americans truly thought of our name, our logo, and whether we were, in fact, upholding the principle of respect in regard to the Native American community."

Snyder said that while some tribes are doing well, others "have genuine issues they truly are worried about -- and our team's name is not one of them."

Those concerns include poverty, illness, substance abuse, violence, suicide, and a lack of basic infrastructure.

Snyder called the situation "heart wrenching."

"It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more," he said. "I want to do more. I believe the Washington Redskins community should commit to making a real, lasting, positive impact on Native American quality of life — one tribe and one person at a time.  I know we won’t be able to fix every problem.  But we need to make an impact. And so I will take action."

Snyder said he "so serious" about the cause, he began his efforts "quietly and respectfully, away from the spotlight." In addition to traveling and meeting in-person with Tribal communities, we took a survey of tribes across 100 reservations so that we could have an accurate assessment of the most pressing needs in each community."

He said the work already has begun, with the distribution of winter coats and athletic shoes to several tribes. And he assisted in the purchase of a new backhoe for the Omaha Tribe in Nebraska, so they can bury their dead -- and repair broken water pipes -- even in the coldest winter months.

Snyder says his foundation has 40 additional projects in the works.

"For too long, the struggles of Native Americans have been ignored, unnoticed and unresolved. As a team, we have honored them through our words and on the field, but now we will honor them through our actions. We commit to the tribes that we stand together with you, to help you build a brighter future for your communities."

Snyder said the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation "will serve as a living, breathing legacy -- and an ongoing reminder -- of the heritage and tradition that is the Washington Redskins."