The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance is a coalition of community organizations and community activists in Northeast Ohio. The Committee is committed to enhancing and protecting the cultural human rights and heritage rights of indigenous people living in Northeast Ohio. The Committee shall promote financial and, technical assistance; advocacy and other supportive activities to the Ohio indigenous community. Through media events, and various public forums the Committee will educate the general public on the unacceptable individual and institutional racism that exists in our communities. The Committee is specifically committed to ending the use of the racist Chief Wahoo and the name Indians and will use all its available resources to accomplish this goal.
The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance organized in 1991. The purpose then was to educate the public on the truth about Columbus. This was the 500 year anniversary of Columbus Day.
The Committee of 500 Years now holds conferences during the weekend of the opening day of the Cleveland Baseball Team, organizes demonstrations against the name and logo of the Cleveland Baseball Team, lectures and leads workshops in all settings educating the public on racism against Indigenous People through the media and sports. The Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance is based in Cleveland Ohio with supporters nationally and internationally
The imaginary and true origins
of the “indians” name for the Cleveland baseball team.
by James Watson and Juanita Helphrey
The Cleveland indians baseball team, in its official version of its history, claims that the team was named in honor of Louis Sockalexis the first Indigenous Major League player. On its web page (www.indians.com) the Cleveland indians MLB organization propagates its mythology about how the name was chosen.
“The Cleveland Indian” (1871-1913)
Louis Sockalexis was a Penobscot Indian from Old Town, Maine and the first American Indian to play major league baseball.
Sockalexis, Who played collegiate baseball at Holy Cross College in Worchester, MA, joined the Cleveland club in 1897. In his first season with the team, he hit at a .338 clip.
His career was short-lived as Louis played for only three seasons. Over his brief career he compiled a .313 batting average. In his second season with Cleveland, Louis saw his average dip to .224. His final summer in the majors was 1899 when he appeared in only seven games and batted .273.
The team employed several nicknames throughout the years prior to the arrival of Sockalexis and after his departure. The one that was used for the longest period of time was “Naps”, in honor of the team’s player-manager Napolean Lajoie.
After Lajoie was released in 1914, a Cleveland newspaper held a contest to rename the team. The winning entry in the contest was “Indians”. The fan who sent it in explained that the name would be a testament to the game’s first American Indian player. The memory of Louis Sockalexis was not forgotten then, and today, decades later, he is still remembered.
This same story is told in two other places in the website:
1915 Indians; A local daily newspaper ran a contest and the name “Indians” was suggested by a fan who said he was doing it in honor of the player, Louis Sockalexis
The Early Years
A new name, new owner and new star ushered in the next era of Cleveland baseball. Lajoie’s departure mandated a new team nickname. In fan balloting through a local newspaper, Indians was chosen to honor former Spider LOUIS SOCKALEXIS, the first well known Native American professional baseball player.
When asked by e-mail which Cleveland newspaper it was that ran the naming contest, and announced the name in honor of Louis Sockalexis, the MLB organization never answered.
Even if this story were true, it would still show that the “Indians” name was steeped in racism. Notice that when the team was named after a Caucasian player, it was named for the individual, not his race. But this story has little basis in historical fact. The 500 Year Committee then checked the daily newspapers published in Cleveland in January, 1915, when the Indians name was chosen (Plain Dealer, Press, News and Leader), and found the true story:
The Cleveland Press, January 7, 1915
FANS WILL HELP SELECT NEW NICKNAME FOR NAPS
When the Naps take the field in the first game of the coming season they’ll no longer be the Naps. Now that Napoleon Lajoie, after whom the club was named, has been sold to the Athletics, the team is to have a new nickname.
President C. W. Somers of the Naps has appointed the sporting editor of The Press a member of a committee of sport writers to select a new nickname for the team.
The sporting editor wants the fans to help name the team. If you have in mind what you think a suitable nickname for the club, Mr. Fan or Miss Faness, send it to the nickname editor of the Press. Nicknames suggested will be submitted to the committee.
This is the only mention of fan input into the name change in any of the newspapers--so there was no fan naming contest. There was no mention of Sockalexis, and no mention of honor to Indigenous Peoples. If you read the newspaper accounts of the day, you see the blatant racism of the sportswriters and degradation of Indigenous Peoples. Reprinted below are the ALL the articles in the four Cleveland dailies that mention the name change.
The following article and cartoon appeared in the Sunday
Plain Dealer, January 17, 1915
BASEBALL WRITERS SELECT “INDIANS” AS THE BEST NAME TO APPLY TO THE FORMER NAPS
With the going of Nap Lajoie to the Athletics, a new name had to be selected for the Cleveland American league club. President Somers invited
the Cleveland baseball writers to make the selection. The title of Indians was their choice; it’s having been one of the names applied to the old National league club of Cleveland many years ago.
The nickname, however, is but temporarily cognomen bestowed, as the club may so conduct itself during the present season as to earn some other cognomen which may be more appropriate. The choice of a name that would be significant just now was rather difficult with the club itself anchored in last place.
While picking a name for the Cleveland A.L. team, the committee also agreed that the Cleveland A.A. team owned too many names, and that while they were at it, it might be well to agree on just one name for the erstwhile Bearcats. Consequently, the other old nickname of the Cleveland National leaguers was adopted and henceforth all the local papers will call the A.A. club the Spiders.So there you are the - Indians and Spiders.
The Cleveland Press, January 18, 1915 Now that the Naps have been re-nicknamed the Indians, we hope they will become very Indian-like and wake up.
A series of real indian war dances is what the Cleveland fans want next season. Let’s hope the team will be equal to the task, even if not equal to winning a pennant.
The spiders are to remain the Spiders and, with spidery Jack Knight at their head, ought to show better than they did last season.
The Cleveland ball club was anxious to get a nickname that couldn’t be converted into a joke. Indians delighted Vice President Barnard. “They won’t be able to poke fun at the Indians,” said Barney.
Oh, no, but wait until they begin to lose and see how soon the fans will dub them the “squaws”.
The Cleveland News, January 18, 1915
INDIANS IS A POPULAR NICKNAME INDIANS IS A POPULAR NICKNAME
The new nickname of the Naps, has met with the popular approval of Cleveland fans. At least a large number of letters which came to hand in Monday morning’s mail leads one to this opinion.
James Thayer is one Cleveland fan who thinks the “Indians” may emulate the example of their National league counterparts, the Boston “Braves,” and show just such a wonderful reversal in form the coming season as the “Braves” did in 1914.
The Cleveland Leader, January 17, 1915
“INDIANS REPLACE THE NAPS”
“INDIANS REPLACE THE NAPS”
“New Name for local American League Club is Selected by Writers.”
The Indians are with us! That’s what will greet the Cleveland American League club when it hits a rival city this year, as the Naps have been officially laid to rest. In place of the Naps, we’ll have the Indians, on the warpath all the time, and eager for scalps to dangle at their belts.
At a meeting of local sport writer’s yesterday afternoon, this was decided upon. The Association team will be known as the Spiders in the future.
Now, if the Naps get going good, and many here think they will, we’ll have the old Indians on the warpath, mowing down their opponents in whirlwind fashion, but, if they follow in the footsteps of the 1914 Naps, we’ll have the Indians getting licked most very day.
But the name should prove a good one and may be a mascot which will aid the locals in more ways than one. Ball players as a rule are superstitious and the change in name may work wonders with them. The old “Naps” seemed to imply lack of speed and fight and the new one shows just the opposite.
The fans, who have heard of the new names, were loud in their approval of it, many stating that it would emulate interest in the club among the fans, as a new name implies that something new will be shown.
That’s what Manager Birmingham wants to do, show the fans a fighting team, one which (sic) never quits.
Either the honor to Indigenous Peoples and particularly Louis Sockalexis somehow escaped the notice of the 4 Cleveland Dailies at the time, or the official Cleveland indians history is a fabrication. But the re-naming did not escape notice by the Cleveland newspapers. In fact it prompted the articles we have reprinted here--all of which contained racist, demeaning references to Indigenous Peoples.
The only mention of Louis Sockalexis in association with the new name was an obscure, op-ed piece that offers the Sockalexis history as an afterthought to embellish the new name.
The Plain Dealer, January 18, 1915 Many years ago there was an Indian named Sockalexis who was the star player of the Cleveland baseball club. As batter, fielder and base runner, he was a marvel. Sockalexis so far outshone his teammates that he naturally came to be regarded as the whole team. The “fans” throughout the country began to call Clevelanders the “Indians”. It was an honorable name, and while it stuck, the team made an excellent record.
It has now been decided to revive the name. The Cleveland's of 1915 will be the "Indians." There will be no real Indians on the roster, but the name will recall fine traditions. It is looking backwards to a time when Cleveland had one the most popular teams in the United States. It also serves to revive the memory of
single great player who has been gathered to his fathers in the happy Huntington grounds of the Abenakis.
The need to remind fans of Sockalexis after the new name had already been chosen suggests that his memory was not prominent in Cleveland, and did not influence the name choice. This article has huge historical inaccuracies.
Sockalexis showed great promise but played only one full season. He could hardly be regarded as the whole team. The newspaper accounts of his 1897 season reported that fans at home and away games continually harassed Sockalexis with racist taunts and derision, so the name “Indians” may have been a mockery, not an honor. The Cleveland team he played for, did not make “an excellent record,” but was mired in fifth place for the entire 1897 season.
In 1915, 25 years after the Wounded Knee Massacre, 6 years after Geronimo died a US prisoner in Fort Sill Okla., the attitudes of the Americans were still genocidal not admiring. The team and the fans should just admit that the name and logo of the baseball team were not intended to honor anybody but were chosen to capture the mythological savagery of “indians” in the sporting arena. Indigenous peoples are not savages, they are not anxious to get scalps, they are not mascots and there is no honor in being used as a sports mascot!
ATTENTION! Click on the url below to see what Council of American Indian Ministries, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ did.
Margie and I were with them and had gone to the streets Friday and Monday to get more signatures for the petition.
We are honored to be in solidarity with the United Church of Christ and the Council of American Indian Ministries, UCC.
How Thanksgiving was started
HAPPY TURKEY DAY! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! to all those who will be celebrating. "Thanksgiving Day was
first officially proclaimed by the governor of Massachusetts Bay colony in 1637 to commemorate the massacre of 700 Indian men, women and children, who were celebrating their annual green Corn Dance, Thanksgiving Day to them‑in their own house, ' William Newell, said "Gathered in this place of meeting they were attacked by mercenaries and English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building."
Newel based his research on studies of Holland documents and the 13‑volume colonial Documentary History, both thick sets of letters and reports from colonial officials to their superiors and the king in England, and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian agent for New York colony for 36 years in the mid 1600's. Newell, a Penobscot Indian, has degrees from Syracruse and the University of Pennsylvania and is a former chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology department.
The year was 1637.. ...700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe, gathered for their "Annual Green Corn Dance" in the area that is now known as Groton, Connecticut while they were gathered in this place of meeting, they were surrounded and attacked by mercenaries of the
English and Dutch. The Indians were ordered from the building and as they came forth, they were shot down. The rest were burned alive in the building.
The next day, the Governor of the Massachusetts Bay colony declared: "A day of Thanksgiving, thanking God that they had eliminated over 700 men, women and children. For the next 100 years, every "Thanksgiving Day" ordained by a Governor or President was to honor that victory, thanking God that the battle had been won.
Source: Documents of Holland, 13 volume Colonial Documentary History, letters and reports form colonial officials to their superiors and the King in England and the private papers of Sir William Johnson, British Indian agent for the New York colony for 30 years.
Researched by William B. Newell (Penobscot Tribe) Former chairman of the University of Connecticut Anthropology Department.
VIDEO: Protesters, Fans Clash at Cleveland Indians' Opening Day Mary Annette Pember 4/13/15 Although it's been one hundred years since the inception of the Cleveland Indians’ name, it is a year like any other for Cleveland resident Marjorie Villafane of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.
On April 10, the baseball club’s opening day at Progressive Field in Ohio, she was busy as usual behind the scenes, bringing signs for marchers to carry as they protested the racist name and logo, Chief Wahoo. She ferried protestors and supporters between meeting sites, helped cook vast amounts of venison chili and stood quietly on the edge of the boisterous group of protesters who chided passing fans for supporting a name and logo so obviously offensive to Native peoples.
Video of 100 Years of the Cleveland Indians Mascot Villafane and the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance, a group of grassroots activists, have kept the fire of this campaign against racial inequity alive here for over 20 years.
This work, according to Villafane, provides some relief to all the off hand insults and gestures, the micro aggressions that come with life in this rust belt city, far from her reservation home. “Racial micro aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color,” according to the Micro aggressions Project. “We have experienced a lot of racial prejudice here; it wears you down,” she said. She recalls incidents at her children’s school in which teachers told them that Native peoples were savages and that they deserved to die. “We were taught not to rock the boat so I didn’t say anything but it made me mad,” she said. Like many Native people of her era, the Indian Relocation Act, a federal program of assimilation that encouraged Native peoples to move from reservations to cities, sponsored her move in 1965 from the Standing Rock reservation.
“When you’re alone, it’s tough to stand up against injustice. It’s too emotionally expensive,” she noted.
After seeing the film “In Whose Honor,” a film depicting the racism of Native sports mascots, she decided to join others in her community in protesting the Cleveland Indian’s name and logo. “I feel empowered by this work,” she said. The continuing resistance of movement stalwarts like Villafane seems to be paying off as they are joined by growing numbers of Natives and non Natives alike who are opposed to sports names and mascots that demean Indigenous peoples.
Marchers make their way to Progressive Field. Photo by Mary Annette Pember.
About 150 people joined the protest this year outside Progressive Field including Cleveland City Council member Zack Reed. He compares the Chief Wahoo logo to the black sambo image in terms of racial offensiveness. “If any other racial ethnicity were targeted in this way, the image would have been wiped out years ago,” he said. African Americans consistently support abandoning the logo and name especially when the black sambo comparison is brought in, according to Reed. Reed noted that growing public pressure to change the Washington R word football team name has helped focus attention on the Cleveland team. The Indians name and Chief Wahoo image reflects poorly on the city of Cleveland according to Reed who is soon taking the issue before the Cleveland city council. He hopes that the city can encourage the team to abandon the name and logo.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s editorial board has also called on the team to retire the Chief Wahoo logo. According to the paper’s 2014 opinion page, “Americans have a long history of giving up on once-acceptable traditions when they come to realize the consequences – as unintended as they may be – of keeping them going.” The Plain Dealer’s editorial team however, unlike other media outlets that have discontinued use of similar racist team names, continues to use the team name and logo in their daily coverage. Plain Dealer editor George Rodrigue did not respond to ICTMN’s inquiry about the paper’s policy.
Although the team has recently changed its main logo to a block “C” and reduced depictions of Chief Yahoo at Progressive field, those opposing the name and imagery say the team has not gone far enough. Team owner Larry Dolan refused ICTMN’s request for an interview via the baseball club’s senior director of communications Curtis Danburg who provided the following statement:
“We are very cognizant and sensitive to both sides of the conversation – our fans’ deep, long lasting attachment to the memories associated with Chief Wahoo and those who are opposed to its use. We continue to research our fan base to better understand their perception and stance on the logo, but at present time have no plans of making a change. We will continue to have the Wahoo logo represented on our uniforms and home cap during the 2015 season.”
Indeed, the grinning red-faced Indian chief was widely visible on clothing and merchandise during this 2015 opening day. Bars near Progressive Field advertising 11 a.m. “Happy Hour,” leading up to the 4 p.m. game time were packed to overflowing with celebrants.
Intoxicated fans mocked protestors at entrances to the field, making war whoops, screaming obscenities, and admonishing them to “get a job,” or “go back to the reservation.” After hours of drinking as game time approached many fans appeared as red faced and befuddled as the Chief Wahoo logo that adorned their clothing. A local radio station that was broadcasting in front of the stadium’s main entrance loudly blared fake powwow drum music. A few passersby confronted protestors insisting that the Indians name honored Native peoples.
Fans have long maintained that the team’s name, changed from the Cleveland Naps (named to honor former team captain Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie) to the Indians in 1915 was done so in order to honor former team member Louis Sockalexis of the Penobscot tribe who played for the team from 1897 to 1899. Subsequent research has shown that the name was actually chosen by sports writers of the day at the request of team owners.
The sole tribute to Louis Sockalexis, of the Penobscot tribe, who played for team in 1897. Fans maintain team was named Indians in honor of him. Photo by Mary Annette Pember.
According to Joe Posnanski of “Hardballtalk,” Native American names were popular then for sports teams. Additionally according to Posnanski, naming the team the Indians was “a glorious opportunity for HI-larious Native American jokes and race-specific clichés and insults that fit well in headlines.” Posnanski further noted that coverage of Sockalexis during those days nearly always included reference to collecting scalps or wampum and later firewater. Sockalexis was an alcoholic who frequently showed up for games drunk and sadly fell from grace with the team. Living on the streets of Cleveland, he died in 1913 at the age of 42, two years before the team allegedly changed its name to honor him. Among all the statues, plaques and displays honoring past players and owners, there is a lone photograph of Sockalexis on the upper tier of Progressive Field tucked away in right field above a French fry stand.
Dangerous to be vocal
“Speaking out against racism is hard work in relocation cities like Cleveland. Sometimes our people have had to become invisible in order to survive,” said Charlene Teters, professor of Art at the Institute of American Indian Art and founder of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media. Teters will often travel to Cleveland to support efforts there to change the team name and mascot. In addition to joining the march and demonstration, she spoke to people attending a conference at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ on Saturday regarding the mascot issue. Villafane agreed with Teters as she listened from her post behind the information table for the Committee. “You have to swallow so much when you live here. Our children grow up in an atmosphere of disrespect towards Native people and it gets you down,” she noted. In years past, one of Villafane’s sons joined the demonstration when he was a teenager. “He would get so angry and upset that I was afraid he would get arrested so I asked him to stay home,” she recalled. Her eldest son, however, does not embrace his Native identity. “He doesn’t tell anybody he’s Native. I think he is ashamed,” she observed. After a pause, she added, “I didn’t stand up for my kids back when they were in school, but supporting the Committee now gives me a chance to stand up for my grand kids and send the message that we don’t have to accept these racist images and names,” she said.
Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/04/13/video-protesters-fans-clash-cleveland-indians-opening-day-159989
MORE MEDIA ON THE OPENING DAY DEMONSTATION! Click on the url
Photos by Mark Horning of march and demonstration and pot luck https://plus.google.com/photos/115326630596290245630/albums/6136311050142478321