The Cleveland baseball franchise will be moving on from the “Indians” moniker after 105 years.
This announcement stirs emotions for Indians fans no matter what side of this issue they’re on.
Personally, I believe that the franchise should continue to use “Indians” as its team name. I recognize that we live in a very different time than when the name was first instituted. That being said, this is something that doesn’t need to and shouldn’t be changed in this ever-changing social landscape.
According to the National Museum of the American Indian, the terms “Indian” and “American Indian” are acceptable. The consensus, according to the museum’s website, is that Native people prefer the use of their specific tribal name whenever possible. The site also states that American Indian or indigenous American is preferred by many Native people.
People that are in favor of a name change cite racism as a reason but by definition, that argument may be invalid. Racism, according to Merriam-Webster, is a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. The franchise using “Indians” as a team name doesn’t convey either of those beliefs. Its use is simply acknowledging the existence of indigenous Americans. A people that has a long history in this country. As previously mentioned, “Indians” is acceptable and even preferred by many Native people. I ask, isn’t it damaging and even disrespectful to remove acknowledgments of these peoples’ existence? Especially, people that have been treated the way indigenous Americans have been over the course of this country’s history.
This process seemed to accelerate after the Washington Football Franchise decided to drop the “Redskins” team name earlier this year. There are people that believe Washington’s situation is like Cleveland’s. That is not the case. Both team names have to do with Native People, but it’s like comparing apples and oranges. One name is an actual slur and the other isn’t.
Since the name is going to be changed, I have an idea that may come as close as possible to satisfying everyone. Go forward with “Tribe.” I know that owner Paul Dolan has already ruled this out, but let me explain why that is foolish. A tribe, according to Oxford’s English Dictionary, is a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognized leader. Not only is there an absence of specific ties to indigenous Americans, but a tribe sort of sounds like the Cleveland sports fan base to me. In a statement the team released, Dolan mentioned wanting to unify the community. Well, the community is unified in its support of the team and that community stretches beyond Northeast Ohio. Cleveland sports fans are members of a tribe. The Cleveland sports tribe is all-inclusive. People of all races, religions, socio-economic statuses, sexual preferences and backgrounds are welcome. I believe this is the best option because it appeases both sides. First, there is no clear reference to Native people. Yes, of course, there are indigenous American tribes but those aren’t the only ones. Second, “Tribe” isn’t that drastic of a name change and fans often refer to the team as “The Tribe” already.
The Cleveland Indians will forever be a part of my life. They have accounted for some of my fondest memories including going to Game 5 of the 2007 ALCS with my dad and numerous treks into enemy territory with my family to see them play the New York Yankees. I was even almost named after Jacob’s Field. Had the Indians won the 1997 World Series, it might be Jake Widman writing this article. They’ve also accounted for some of my greatest heartaches, but that’s the life of a Cleveland sports fan. Unfortunately, it’s something that unifies us. I will always support a Cleveland baseball team. It’s what members of the Cleveland sports tribe do.
At the end of the day… ANYTHING BUT SPIDERS.
Photo via Cleveland.com