It’s a debate taking over sports fields across North American.
The use of Indigenous figures as sports mascots.
Trent University’s David Newhouse says using indigenous figures and symbols as mascots is nothing new,
and has almost always been problematic.
“What the mascot does, is it takes away your identity. And it replaces it with a new identity,” Newhouse said.
This debate focuses on Chief Wahoo, the longstanding mascot of the Cleveland Indians.
The Chief is a caricature, with a red face, hooked nose, wide grin and sports a feather in his hair.
“The image of Chief Wahoo is not one that we would have chosen for ourselves,” Newhouse said. “So then pop culture continues the process of colonization. One of the strong affects of colonization is change in identity.”
Late this afternoon Ontario’s top court heard arguments asking to bar Cleveland from using its team name as the city takes on the Blue Jays during the American League Championships.
The request for an injunction was filed by indigenous activist Douglas Cardinal.
“A deep and profound issue that mirrors to society a discriminatory and demeaning logo depicting an indigenous person in a cartoonish manner,” he said.
But not all team names borrowing from First Nations culture are mired in controversy.
“Our name honours the most prestigious person in a band, the chief is well respected,” said Tyler Revoy, general manager with the Lakefield Chiefs.
The Lakefield Chiefs have carried their name and symbol for more than 30 years,
with support from Curve Lake First Nation.
“With us using that name and Curve Lake being so close we’ve been able to work hand in hand with them and we have a lot of fans and we’ve had a lot of players come out of Curve Lake.”
Revoy says if the First Nation were to complain, the team would address the issue.