Native Americans and Sports

Atlanta_Braves_Old_Logo_profile_page ClevelandIndians So I was sitting on the couch with Husband watching some sports game (apparently, there’s like one on tv of different sports every day?) And I noticed a shot of the crowd at this college sport all bending their arms at the elbow in unison, to show support of the team, the Tomahawks, and Husband explained it was a gesture that was supposed to represent a hatchet, as in when Native Americans would use hatchets. When the team won, the white coach brought out a spear with colorful feathers and pinned it into the ground in a sign of victory.

The Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians are only two of a handful of professional teams that use Native American culture/imagery/what-have-you. (And I am so not a sports expert, so there maybe more out there.)

I remember watching a documentary on this subject years ago, by a Native American documentarian, whom my friend Joslyn worked for. The doc had footage of fans all doing that same hatchet gesture, with a voiceover from a Native American discussing how offensive this is. Apparently, it’s something that’s been phased out in pro sports, but in college sports, the gesture still lives.

Does this not strike you as completely bizarre? I mean, what if there were team called the Cleveland Koreans and the fans wore traditional han-boks to games with a Korean cartoon face on the team’s uniforms? Offensive, but also strange.

Native Americans get the shaft. They need cash and lobbying power, and our country has a terrible relationship to them, but I will say it’s better than Canada’s. When we were up in Montreal, the Canadian government was sending body bags to reservations in response to the H1N1 scare. Charming.

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