Many have discussed the historical significance of a Chicago Cubs victory in the 2016 World Series. Few, if any, have discussed the social significance of a Cubs victory for indigenous peoples within the claimed territorial boundaries of the US. This year the Cubs face off against the so-called Cleveland “Indians.” Native Americans in the US have protested the racist misrepresentation of the Cleveland baseball franchise for over half a century.

Cleveland's franchise victories do not legitimize its racism

This is the reason a Cubs victory would have such great significance for indigenous peoples.

Every time a major US sports franchise that utilizes a racist Native American mascot and team name wins a major sports victory, it attempts to legitimize its perpetuation of racism. Let us be clear, not one of the Cleveland so-called “Indians” victories will ever in any way legitimize its continued misrepresentation of indigenous peoples under its racist team name, nor does it legitimize its continuing use of its despicably racist team mascot “Chief Wahoo.”

Cleveland's urban indigenous population

Cleveland has a large urban indigenous population. It is important to understand how it got that way. The first Native people to settle in urban areas were returning World War II veterans. The largest wave of migration however, occurred under the US governments' urban “relocation” program.

The program was touted to provide urban jobs and a higher standard of suburban living, but its true purpose was to separate indigenous peoples from their traditional territories and assimilate them into Anglo-American culture. In some ways, the plan backfired

Historical indigenous opposition to the Cleveland franchise

Urban Natives entered the academy and through higher education, community organizing, and social activism, developed their social and political consciousness.

Opposition to the Cleveland Indians baseball team began very early. The late American Indian Movement leader Russell Means discusses his role in leading the opposition to its racist Chief Wahoo Mascot in the book “Where White Men Fear to Tread: the Autobiography of Russell Means” as early as the 1960s.

Decades of popular indigenous resistance to the Cleveland franchise followed and continue to the present. National organizations have repeatedly condemned the usage of racist sports team mascots.

National organizations condemn use of Native mascots

In 2005 the American Psychological Association issued an official statement on the psychological harm of Native mascots. Other organizations such as; the National Congress of American Indians, United South and Eastern Tribes, the Council of the American Sociological Association, the American Counseling Association, the National Indian Education Association, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights have followed suit.

Mascots are an important issue

Every time Native people bring up mascots they hear, “aren't there more important issues”. The fact is, racist misrepresentation like “Chief Wahoo” dehumanizes indigenous people in the popular consciousness. This dehumanization then becomes justification for the egregious injustices committed against indigenous peoples such as the Dakota Access pipeline, and the Atlantic Coast pipeline. If one Stands with Standing Rock, one should also stand up to the Cleveland franchise.

Oppose racism by supporting the Cubs

Chicago has its own mascot problem mind you. Chicago's hockey franchise continues to use a despicably racist logo, not unlike that of Chief Wahoo, disparaging the memory of the Sac and Fox patriot Black Hawk despite massing popular indigenous opposition by Chicago's urban Native community.

But this year at least support for the Cubs against Cleveland in the World Series should count as opposition to the Cleveland franchise's racism.

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