Indianapolis Indians Name Change

Indianapolis Indians Name Change

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We are living in a challenging time, and these challenges have brought longstanding inequities to the forefront of our collective psyche in the US. Collectively, we have always lacked an honest acknowledgment of our history. This lack has allowed us to become desensitized to various instances of cultural erasure. One seemingly benign instance of this is the use of harmful "Indian" mascots for sports teams. It's only benign because most of us have grown up with names like the Washington R-dskins, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Indianapolis Indians. These names are not okay simply because we grew up with them, though, and they certainly are not honoring the human beings who are referenced.

The Spanish word "mascota" means "pet." The French word "mascotte" means a "good luck charm." Although we might more readily think of a bulldog with the word "mascot," the English meaning is the same as the French one. We are not celebrating anyone's culture in this way, as we are not celebrating greyhounds or wasps. Everyday, we relegate an historically subjugated and displaced group of people to our good luck charms, while their presence has been largely removed from our day-to-day experience. Particularly for American Indian youth, this limits the ways they see themselves. Representation is crucial. It's not okay that there are "Indians" t-shirts available for purchase, and then the money goes to a business made up of non-American Indians as we wear the shirts and think about baseball. We cannot be okay with this if we want to live in truly equitable communities. We cannot willingly sacrifice a portion of our humanity for cashflow or familiarity.

American Indian people have been calling for this change for a long time. Removing harmful "Indian" sports team mascots is a very visible, important choice. Washington did the right thing this week. We need to follow suit in Indianapolis.

I write this as a non-American Indian myself, and I use "we" in this explanation to speak to other non-American Indians. We are all affected by this, but my voice is not nearly as important as the people directly harmed.