INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A Native American group that considers the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians’ name offensive is hosting two discussions this week related to the team’s name at a time of reckoning over racial injustice, iconography and racism in the U.S.
The American Indian Center of Indiana planned Zoom conversations for “interested parties” Monday evening and again later this week in hopes of drafting a resolution calling for the removal of the minor-league team’s name and any imagery using offensive or false characterizations of Native Americans.
“Some people think that, well, names like Chiefs and Warriors and Indians should be acceptable because they’re not racial slurs. But they don’t understand the harm that comes from having our images kind of reduced to sports and high school mascots,” Carolina Castoreno, the center’s executive director, told The Indianapolis Star.
She said Monday’s discussion would be centered on Manual High School, an Indianapolis public school that agreed earlier this month to revisit its longtime mascot —the Redskins— and the psychological effects of racist and offensive mascotry.
The NFL’s Washington Redskins recently retired its contentious nickname and logo after decades of objection.
Castoreno, who’s an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas, said Monday’s Zoom discussion would touch on all mascotry, including that of Indianapolis’ minor-league team.
While many defend team names that aren’t racist slurs as honoring Native people, she said Native Americans are the only widespread race of people whose culture has been reduced to a mascot.
All mascotry, whether a slur or not, comes from the same history that paints Native Americans in the past tense, said Dr. Scott Shoemaker, the curator of Native American art, history and culture at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.
“They’re not actually representative of actual native people. It’s more of this idea of what native people were,” said Shoemaker, a member of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma who will join Castoreno in Monday’s Zoom discussion.
The Indianapolis baseball team is not playing this summer because the minor league baseball season was canceled on June 30.
Although the team has made changes to distance it from offensive characterizations of Indigenous people, including removing a teepee structure from its center-field and changing its logo, it’s long been committed to its team name.
A spokesperson for the team told The Indianapolis Star that “the topic of the team’s name comes up “from time to time” and it is discussed internally.
“We have been following the national sports news and have been talking about it internally quite a bit in recent weeks,” the spokesperson said Sunday night.