Atlanta Braves – But it’s an “Honor”
Many apologists for the use of Native Americans as team mascots will argue that the team is simply honoring the culture of the people. Is that what we are doing? Those who stand in opposition argue that these teams are simply honoring a historical myth that our society has concocted about Native Americans.
Fans wearing headdresses, donning warpaint, and chanting in unison are viewed by many as an endorsed mockery of an entire race.
The chop is used by other professional and collegiate teams outside of the Braves, including the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.
Gaylene Crouser is the executive director of the Kansas City Indian Center. Crouser had the following to say regarding the chop.
“As an organization, part of our mission is to empower Indian people,” said Crouser, who is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. “And things like the tomahawk chop don’t empower Indian people. It’s still very stereotypical and mocking of an entire race of people.”
Kevin Gover, director of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian and a member of the Pawnee Tribe of Oklahoma had the following to say to USA Today regarding sports teams “honoring” American Indians by using their images and customs.
“It doesn’t feel like an honor when you do not confront the truth of the people you claim to be honoring,” Gover says. “They never honor the Native American truth. They are honoring their own notion of heritage, their own non-Indian version of history.”
Tim Giago, whom we will hear more from later, wrote an article on the topic entitled Who are these ‘fanatics’ honoring?
“The most common explanation for this overt racism is that “we are honoring Native Americans.” Honoring? One does not honor another race of people by insulting and demeaning them.”
As non-natives, it’s easy not to understand that we are demeaning their cultures when we don’t understand their cultures.
Robert Roche is a member of the Chiricahua Apache and was the executive director of Cleveland American Indian Education Center until he was convicted of embezzlement in 2018. He picked up some national notoriety when he confronted a fan outside of Progressive Field prior to an Indians game in 2014.
The fan was in redface and wearing headdress with blue and red feathers to go along with his Indians (baseball team) themed war paint. Roche confronted the man.
“I asked him if he understood the mockery he was making of us…of our religion by having those feathers and his faced painted. He told me: ‘I am honoring you guys’, Roche said as he recounted the confrontation. “He kept telling me how he was honoring us.”
Following Helsley’s comments last postseason, Principal Chief of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, James Floyd, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the tomahawk chop is “not an appropriate acknowledgment of tribal tradition or culture.”
“It reduces Native Americans to a caricature and minimizes the contributions of Native peoples as equal citizens and human beings.”