CLEVELAND INDIANS: CHANGE THE NAME

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IT'S TIME FOR THE CLEVELAND INDIANS TO CHANGE THEIR NAME

You know why.

Settler colonialism was devastating to the indigenous peoples of what we now call North America. Let's not use an outdated and incorrect term in reference to their remaining descendants for the sake of a professional sports team.

The name "Indians" lumps together a broad and diverse race of peoples whose societies, cultures, and histories were supplanted by centuries of often brutal settler expansion. The name "Indians" is also wrong -- it has only ever been used in the context of Native Americans because Christopher Columbus did not know which side of the planet he was on when he first reached land in the Caribbean more than 500 years ago. Simply put: Indians are from India (you know, that nation in southern Asia), not Ohio (you are thinking of the Delaware, Erie, Huron, Iroquois, Miami, Ottawa, Seneca, Shawnee, Wyandotte, etc.).

Further, the claim that "Indians" was ever meant to "honor" Louis Sockalexis -- a member of the Penobscot tribe who played for a now-defunct National League team in Cleveland just prior to the creation of the city's American League franchise -- does not hold up under scrutiny. "To entertain fans" is a more convincing explanation. Sockalexis is often credited as the first Native American to play major league baseball, and rightly so, but the small group of Cleveland sportswriters asked to pick a new team name by owner Charles Somers in 1915 more likely intended to capitalize on the success of the 1914 World Series champions: the "Miracle" Boston Braves. The name "Indians" was chosen at a time when racism was both commonplace and tolerated (incidentally, just one month before the film "Birth of a Nation" was screened at the White House for President Wilson).

Moreover, the name "Indians" will forever be associated with the only-semi-retired logo "Chief Wahoo" -- a blatantly racist caricature with painfully exaggerated features: a fire engine red face, hook-nose, and toothy grin (lest we forget the single feather for a so-called "Chief"). And the name "Indians" will continue to give fans an excuse to show up to Progressive Field in red-face and headdresses, often for postseason matchups before a national TV audience, thus magnifying both the insult and psychological harm to indigenous peoples.

While encouraging, the Cleveland Indians statement released on July 3, 2020, regarding the "Indians" team name is not sufficient. Accordingly, I call on owners Larry Dolan & Paul Dolan, as well as the entire Cleveland Indians baseball organization, plus any and all team sponsors* and media partners**, to IMMEDIATELY, OFFICIALLY, and PERMANENTLY RETIRE the name "INDIANS". Moreover, I call on the team to transfer any and all Native American inspired intellectual properties -- including but especially the "Cleveland Indians" trademark, "Tribe" as a trademark, the "Chief Wahoo" trademarks, & the "Chief Wahoo" copyright (a logo which continues to appear on merchandise sold in Northeast Ohio stores) -- to the nonprofit organization Not Your Mascots where they may be put to better use.

This should have been done many decades and owners ago, but it is never too late to do the right thing. Let us finally, as our manager says, "move forward."

Go Cleveland baseball!

-Nathan W.

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Special thanks to Nick Francona for the idea to transfer any and all Native American related IP. Please read his recent piece for GQ.com:
https://www.gq.com/story/nick-francona-cleveland-indians-name-change

For more on the history of the "Indians" team name, please read this 2012 piece by Peter Pattakos for Cleveland Scene:
https://www.clevescene.com/cleveland/the-curse-of-chief-wahoo/Content?oid=2954423&showFullText=true

For one suggestion (among many) to replace the "Indians" team name, please read MLB.com writer Anthony Castrovince's post on Medium, as well as Bradford Doolittle's piece for ESPN.com:
https://www.medium.com/@castrovince/the-cleveland-spiders-b2f4aa576eb3

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/29475406/bring-back-cleveland-spiders-really-bad-know

For more on the life of Louis Sockalexis, please read author David Fleitz's profile for the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR):
https://www.sabr.org/bioproj/person/louis-sockalexis

For more on the history of the indigenous peoples of Ohio, please read this piece by Dr. Brian Redmond, curator of archaeology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History:
https://www.cmnh.org/science-news/blog/september-2019/the-first-peoples-of-ohio

Header image cropped from:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cleveland_Indians_vs._Baltimore_Orioles_(46986923595).jpg