CLEVELAND, Ohio — Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation said he’s extremely pleased with Monday’s decision to eliminate Chief Wahoo logo from the team uniforms starting in 2019.
In comments Monday, Indians owner Paul Dolan made it clear that the name is staying. “Not only are we adamant about keeping the name Indians, but the Commissioner (Rob Manfred) is similarly supportive of the name,” Dolan said.
However, Francis said that decision should not overshadow the importance of dropping Chief Wahoo.
“I think by and large we are not crazy about these terms, but I think the biggest problem for us is how we are depicting native people in this country,” said Francis. “I don’t want to take away from the huge step forward that this is, but people should be applauded for that.”
Francis has contested the use of the name Indians for a long time, including in Skowhegan, Maine, in 2015. An area high school’s sports teams were nicknamed “Indians,” and after an 11-9 vote by the school board, it kept the nickname.
Francis said he hopes the goal to remove “unrealistic and false imagery of Native Americans” will keep the conversation going after Monday’s announcement.
“In terms of how Indians is used going forward, I think that’s a broader conversation that we can continue to have,” Francis said.
“We just really want to focus on the success, and that it took a lot of strength I’m sure to remove something that has been part of an organization for so long, and we’re just pleased they saw the value in doing that.”
Louis Sockalexis (1897-1899), an outfielder for the Cleveland Spiders, was a member of the Penobscot Nation and legend has it was the inspiration for the Indians team name, although that has long been debated.