Spokane Indians embrace heritage, not oppression

By Aaron Bocook, News Writer


The debate over using Native American imagery as sports mascots, including less-than-respectful depictions of Natives themselves, is raging all over the country.

The Spokane Indians, Spokane’s minor league baseball team, is ahead of the game on the issue. The team began working with the Spokane Tribe of Indians in 2006 to erase all of the offensive imagery from its uniforms and merchandise.

The Indians team includes both English and Salish, a native language of much of the greater Northwest, in its logo and uniform, and uses OTTO the Spokanasaurus, a big blue “reptile with style” as its mascot.

Major league teams should be the ones setting a good example, but organizations like the Cleveland Indians, the Atlanta Braves and the NFL’s Washington Redskins refuse to back off from their use of offensive names, imagery and mascots.

Though the Cleveland Indians changed its primary logo to the block “C,” it still sports the big-nosed grinning Chief Wahoo on parts of its uniform and caps, a logo the team began using before Native Americans even had the right to vote in our country.

Those who want to retain offensive logos, names and mascots say that the use of Native American imagery is meant as a tribute and should be kept out of respect for tradition.

Protesters have taken a firm stance that people should not be reduced to mascots, especially when the depiction could be considered racist.

In a world of Redskins, Savages and tomahawk-chops, it is apparent that teams from the Eastern Washington region are pushing for a level playing field for Natives, setting an example for bigger national teams that should have caught on a long time ago.

Even little old Eastern Washington University, in little old Cheney, Wash., had the common sense to change its mascot from the Savages to the Eagles in 1972, making EWU a much earlier example of the move toward political correctness with athletic mascots.

In 2014, the Spokane Indians  introduced a new alternate home jersey, featuring its name written in Salish, “Sp’q’n’i.” When the season opens June 14, the team will become the first professional team in the nation to use a Native American language as a part of its uniform.