The demise of Chief Wahoo

Cleveland’s logo phase-out is a small win in the fight against racist mascots.

 

Indian Country News is a weekly note from NewTowncarShare News, as we continue to broaden our coverage of tribal affairs across the West.

As an admissions officer at Dartmouth University, Phil Gover made a point to visit a Native charter school in New Mexico, in 2009. Gover, who is of Paiute, Pawnee and Comanche descent, had heard about the in Albuquerque, and he was curious. What he saw inspired him to start his own charter school in Oklahoma City. “I had never been in an educational environment where you could be who you are as a Native person,” Gover told me this week. “Your Native identity could be central to who you are to your peers and teachers.”

Gover is still and searching for a permanent space. He wants to recreate the sense of identity and pride he felt among the students at NACA for Native students in the Oklahoma City school system. Meanwhile, Gover is among the many Native Americans across the country applauding this week’s decision by the Cleveland Indians to . The red-faced caricature of a Native man with a wide-toothed grin and a single feather has been . While the baseball team will continue to sell items adorning the logo in its stadium shop, players will no longer wear it on the field, nor will it appear as the team’s official logo.

The Cleveland Indians will stop using the Chief Wahoo logo on their uniforms beginning in 2019.
 that the continued use of Indigenous peoples as mascots has . Indigenous students report they find Native mascots offensive and demeaning, and they negatively affect their self-esteem. Experts also agree it fosters the idea that it’s acceptable to participate in culturally abusive behavior.

For Gover, as for many of us, it’s not just about how those images are perceived by Native students that is important. “I can make sure my son knows what those images are and understands that, and he can build a cultural armor to withstand it,” he said. “I can give him that. But I can’t give that to his classmates. I can’t affect them the same way I can affect him. At the end of the day, he spends way more time with those kids than he does me. So, what we teach our children about other cultures matters a lot. It governs the things they do and say to each other, how they treat each other. I saw that reflected in his schools in Virginia, and his schools here in Oklahoma City.”

As I discussed recently in this column, explaining those images, which are prevalent at high schools across my state of Oklahoma, to my son is . But he too has experienced discrimination from his peers, and I can’t change how those children are taught in their homes. The problem is compounded by a system-wide lack of adequate education on the history of Indigenous peoples and their relationships with this country. found “that nearly 87 percent of state history standards failed to cover Native American history in a post-1900 context, and that 27 states did not specifically name any individual Native Americans in their standards at all.”

her study was sparked by questions from students in her social studies class. “I gave a class about Indigenous stereotyping,” she said. “Some students looked perplexed and asked the basic questions: How many Indigenous peoples are still alive, what is a reservation, do Indigenous people still live on reservations?”

And when students don’t even realize that not only do Native peoples still exist but that , it should be no surprise they see no problem with the culture promoted by powerful sports organizations. Especially when no other race is subjected to such treatment.

“Some of the arguments you get is that they point to the mainstreamness of these images and names,” Gover said. “‘Redskins’ is cool because it’s part of the NFL, one the most powerful organizations in our country. Baseball is America’s pastime, and losing Chief Wahoo has to mean something.”

It’s unclear if the decision, which was not only endorsed but actively encouraged by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, will finally persuade the NFL team in the nation’s capitol to do away with their use of both a Native logo and a racial slur as a name. Although, it seems unlikely, given team owner Dan Snyder has , no matter how offensive Indigenous peoples have told him they find it.

When it comes to Snyder, many Natives are echoing Philip Yenyo, executive director of the American Indian Movement of Ohio. “I don’t understand why they’re drawing this out,” he told the Associated Press, discussing Cleveland’s decision to wait a year to remove Chief Wahoo. “It doesn’t make any sense to me, unless they want to continue to make what’s basically blood money. Just make the leap already.”

Graham Lee Brewer is a contributing editor at NewTowncarShare News and a member of the Cherokee Nation.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Wyoming Wildlife Federation - collaborates with the Executive Director and staff to ensure the effective implementation of all philanthropic activities. https://wyomingwildlife.org/hiring-philanthropy-coordinator/.
  • HawkWatch International is hiring an Executive Director to lead the organization. The next leader of this growing organization must have: 1. Enthusiasm for conservation, birds...
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Home Resource is a non-profit community sustainability center. We work with, in, and for the community to reduce waste and build a more vibrant and...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Borderlands Restoration Network 501c3 is hiring a full-time Development Director. Description and job details can be found at https://www.borderlandsrestoration.org/job-opportunities.html
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • The City of Fort Collins is seeking an Environmental Planning Manager in the Natural Areas Department. The Department has an annual budget of approximately $13...
  • We are seeking an experienced designer to be the team lead for web development and digital media. Part creator and part planner, this person should...
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • The Utah Rivers Council is looking for an energetic individual with strong communication and organizing skills. The Grassroots Organizer works to ensure our campaigns are...
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Hiring a part-time ranch manager to live on The Nature Conservancy's Carpenter Ranch property in Hayden, CO. Responsibilities include: facility maintenance of historic ranch house,...
  • unique custom home in Sangre de Cristo Mountains of CO near La Veta Pass, 3 bed, 2 1/2 bath, private gated park, two hours from...
  • Kaniksu Land Trust, a community-supported non-profit land trust serving north Idaho and northwest Montana, is in search of a new executive director. The ideal candidate...
  • The Flathead Lakers are seeking a dynamic, self-motivated and proven leader to be our next Executive Director (ED).
  • The Blackfoot Challenge, a renowned collaborative conservation org in MT, seeks our next ED.
  • 10-day tour from Los Mochis airport, 2/nyts El Fuerte, train, 2/nyts canyon rim hotel, 5/nyts camping. 520-324-0209, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Earthjustice is hiring for a Staff Attorney
  • to lead an organization that funds projects in National Parks. Major gift fundraising and public lands experience critical. PD and app details @ peopleinparks.org.