December 14, 2020 | www.ncai.org
WASHINGTON, DC | The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) commends today’s announcement by the Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise in Cleveland to retire its “Indians” name and mascot, which the team has used for more than a century. Cleveland arrived at this landmark decision following an extensive, multi-faceted process to engage with and learn from tribal nations, leaders, scholars, local and national Native organizations, and Native people from all walks of life about how the team’s name impacts them.
“Today’s announcement represents a monumental step forward in Indian Country’s decades-long effort to educate America about what respect for tribal nations, cultures, and communities entails, and how sports mascots like the ‘Indians’ prevent our fellow Americans from understanding and valuing who Native people are today, what makes us unique, and the many contributions we make to this country,” said NCAI President Fawn Sharp. “The genuine commitment the team has made to listen to and learn from Indian Country over the past several months is to be applauded, and the process the team used should serve as a blueprint for sports teams and schools across the nation as this movement for racial justice and inclusion continues to grow.”
“This decision and the team’s ensuing transition to a new name offer us an unprecedented teaching moment, as our work is far from done. We must continue to teach all who will listen the fact that Native people are still here, that we belong to sovereign tribal nations, and that a racially just society must center and celebrate Native people, welcome our perspectives, and value the rich cultural diversity we bring to America’s table,” said Dr. Aaron Payment, NCAI 1st Vice President. “It also presents an opportunity to honor the toil and sacrifice of those who have fought for so long to enable us to reach this moment, individuals such as Clyde Warrior, Suzan Harjo, Lynda Clause, Faye Brings Them, Ray Halbritter, and Amanda Blackhorse.”
NCAI joined other national and local Native organizations and leaders, local civic leaders, and academic experts in engaging with the team’s leadership during its comprehensive listening and learning process over the past several months, and it is committed to partnering with the team moving forward to share knowledge and information with its fan base, the Cleveland community, and schools across the country about tribal nations, the mascot issue, and the thoughtful process the team devised to address it.
NCAI is the oldest, largest, and most representative national organization serving American Indian and Alaska Native tribal nations and their citizens, and has been leading Indian Country’s movement to eradicate offensive Native “themed” mascots from sports and popular culture for more than 50 years.