Seneca president praises Cleveland decision to drop ‘Indians’ name

By RICK MILLER. Olean Times Herald. Dec 15, 2020

IRVING — The Seneca Nation’s new president praised the decision Monday by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland franchise to drop its team name, “Indians.”

Team owner Paul Dolan said the name change will be effective in 2022. It follows years of protest that the name and mascot were racially insensitive to Native Americans. The National Football League’s Washington team dropped Redskins before this season without settling on a new name.

“For too long, sports team names, mascots, and imagery that mock, offend, and degrade Native traditions and people have been deemed acceptable in non-Native communities,” Seneca President Matthew Pagels said. “I applaud Cleveland’s baseball franchise for taking steps to right this wrong but regret it has taken more than a century of outcry and protests from Native people to see this moment realized.”

Pagels added, “While this is a significant step in the right direction — as was the decision by Washington’s NFL team to drop its racist name this past July — there is still much more to do, and this presents yet another moment to recognize that.”

Pagels said he hopes that other teams and non-Native organizations and communities, “including local school districts across New York, will take Cleveland’s decision to heart and follow in its footsteps.”

Asked whether local schools, including Salamanca, need to re-examine their school names or mascots, Pagels replied. “The Salamanca Warriors name and mascot do not insult Native traditions, whereas teams that deploy cartoonish mockery do not take into account the definition of a warrior or the true representation of a headdress to our community.”

In an interview with the Associated Press, Dolan noted it was only hours after Washington’s decision that he announced a thorough review of Cleveland’s name. In recent months he met with fans, business leaders and researchers focused on Native American culture and issues.

Dolan told AP those conversations were “both enlightening and challenging.”

He added there’s a delicate balance between moving ahead and looking back.

“We’re not walking away from our past,” he said. “We’ll be the Cleveland Indians of 1915 to whatever year is that we ultimately change. We will always celebrate that. I don’t think we have to ignore it.”

Cleveland’s name change comes on the heels of the team removing the controversial Chief Wahoo logo from its caps and jerseys in 2019.

The team has never stopped selling merchandise bearing the grinning, cartoonish figure, but Dolan said any profits from future sales of Wahoo items will go to Native American organizations or causes supporting Native Americans.