The Indianapolis Indians are a minor league baseball team, a farm team of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
So with all the talk about team mascots with American Indian names, this of course becomes an issue.
However, what about the very name of the state, Indiana, Land of Indians, and the city, Indianapolis? That’s probably going to come up eventually.
The Indians of Indianapolis have decided, for now anyway, to retain the name, and they’ve made a deal with an Indiana Indian group to help them out.
From WFYI Indianapolis:
The Indianapolis Indians baseball team announced plans Wednesday [February 22] to keep its name while partnering with the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana. The team announced this week that it will be keeping its name for the 2023 and 2024 seasons while it explores programs with the Miami [Indianapolis Indians to keep name, partner with Miami Nation of Indians, by Benjamin Thorp, WFYI Indianapolis, February 23, 2023].
Most Miami Indians live in Oklahoma, in the area of Miami in the northeastern corner of the state. But there were some who remained in Indiana, collectively known as the Miami Nation of Indiana, though currently it’s not federally recognized.
So what does the partnership involve?
The partnership will include a land acknowledgment, recognition of Miami veterans, support of a Miami scholarship program, and fan education opportunities.
It’s great to recognize Miami veterans, and the scholarship program could be good if it’s taken advantage of, but why a land acknowledgment at a baseball game?
The decision comes as sports teams across the country continue to grapple with whether they use names or imagery that could be considered offensive.
As has been explained umpteen times, the use of Indian names as team mascots is an honor to American Indians.
Americans who fought against Indians in the many Indian Wars in our history respected the Indians as warriors. A true warrior respects his enemy.
The Miami were part of the Northwestern Confederacy, also known as the Miami Confederacy. This intertribal confederacy was defeated in 1794 by the Legion of the United States, under the command of General Mad Anthony Wayne, in the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
I have an ancestor who fought in that battle, War of Independence veteran Anthony Dunlevy, my great-great-great-great grandfather. Eventually, both some of his descendants (including yours truly) and most of the Miami Indians wound up in Oklahoma. That's how history works.
Back to baseball:
The Indianapolis Indians have had the same name since 1902. The team announced it would form a committee to evaluate the name in 2020, saying it had not been endorsed by some but “trust they understand the historic and respectful context in which it has been used over the years.”
The chief of the Indiana Miami didn’t have a problem with the team name, even before this partnership.
Miami Nation Chief Brian Buchanan said he’s never felt there was a problem with the name of the city’s minor league baseball team. “You put a name out there and how you portray that name is what makes the difference,” he said. “The Indianapolis Indians in the way they’ve handled everything has been completely respectful all the way from the get go.”
What does the CEO of the team say?
Bruce Schumacher is chairman and CEO of the Indianapolis Indians. He said when the committee began looking into whether there was an issue with having “Indian” in the team name, it quickly found there was no consensus.
“We saw very early on there is no unanimity on this issue,” he said. “People feel many different ways about it. When we talked to Chief Buchanan and the Miamis of Indiana, I flat out asked him: ‘How do you feel about sports team nicknames related to Indians in any way and the Indianapolis Indians specifically?’ And he said ‘It’s an honor, there is a lot you could do with it, and we hope you don’t change.’”
If nothing else, the partnership is good publicity for the tribe.
Schumacher sees the partnership with the Miami as an opportunity for education.
“It’s a matter, as we go forward now, of fleshing out what the Indianapolis Indians baseball team can do to help them tell their history,” he said. “And something that I think is also very important is that they are still here in the present time. I think some folks—especially younger folks—don’t realize the Chief Buchanans and members of his council are living and working in our communities today.”
The exact details of what the Indianapolis Indians will do during the partnership have not been ironed out, but Schumacher said a land acknowledgement will be read before every home game.
They felt they had to put that in.
That acknowledgement mentions not just the Miami, but also includes the Potawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Peoria, and Kickapoo peoples.
Buchanan emphasized that he feels the partnership is a great platform for education—but it’s only a partnership.
“We don’t own the Indianapolis Indians,” he said. “We’re just here as advisors in this partnership to try and teach the fanbase and the citizens of Indiana the Miami culture and Miami ways.”
In case you’re in the Indianapolis area at the end of March...
The ballclub’s season opener is Friday, March 31.
Speaking of sports team/Indian tribe partnerships, the Florida State Seminoles have one with the Seminoles of Florida. The team’s fans utilize the tomahawk chop, which has been called “the most intimidating tradition in college football.” Watch this video which shows Chief Osceola riding onto the field with a flaming spear, which he eventually thrusts into the turf. It’s impressive.