Slow change is better than no change when the change is good

Bruce Spence weighs in on the Indians. The name, not the team.

Bruce Spence
APTN National News
This week the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians for the American League championship.

Move over Edmonton Eskimos, this series is going to open up the sports logo argument like one of those star shaped ninja blades; someone’s going to get cut because of that word “Indians.”

I started school in the early 1960s in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. Connaught School was one of those classic, early 20th Century, three-story, red brick monstrosities. At recess, we played cowboys and Indians. I was with the Indians because my Mom and Dad always told us we were Indians; Cree Indians to be precise, treaty Indians. I was always pretty proud of that, so for sure I’m going to be with the Indians.

In those old duster movies, I always hated that stupid music but I always cheered for the Indians.

Fast forward to the 1970’s.

My brother wore a Washington Redskins T-shirt around town. I can’t live with that word. But it’s one thing for one of us to call ourselves a name that no one else should, or at least try and take possession of the name we don’t like other people calling us. So in your face, this T-shirt is on.

On the other hand,  I always thought the man’s picture at the center of the Redskins logo was the coolest thing. I still do. Same with the Chicago Blackhawks. I’d wear a Blackhawks shirt if I could afford it. Blackhawks I can live with.

“Indians” I can live with –I chose to accept the teaching that it has nothing to do with Columbus thinking he was in India, that moniker never existed in 1492. I was taught that the word was the Anglicization of “in the image of God.”

Now that Cleveland logo, that cartoon on the Cleveland branding means me and my people are cartoons. It could change to something more to my taste, like a realistic or abstract representation of a person.

One of my friends at work wears the Cleveland hat, Chief Wahoo and all. I don’t hold it against him. It’s his right. He’s taking ownership. He says it’s a silly logo that pisses people off and besides, mascots are meant to be silly.

Now we have the Blue Jays stepping up against the Indians for the AL pennant. For a minute there I thought I’d pull for the Indians because when I was a kid…you get the picture.

But the action of just one guy might be able to do something I haven’t been able to…effect a change.

Jerry Howarth has been part of the Toronto Blue Jays stable of announcers for 36 years. He hasn’t used team names like Indians or Braves since Toronto beat Atlanta in the 1992 world series. Chop that Jane Fonda.

Someone wrote to him and said the names were offensive. He will not be referring to the Cleveland team as the Indians.

This is part of the change that’s needed. It’s one voice right now but it looks like non-indigenous people are getting it, and starting to change their attitude about racist mascots and logos.

That kind of change is good.

Decolonization isn’t going to happen overnight but one step at a time never hurt anyone, including me.

Bruce Spence is the line up editor for APTN National News in Winnipeg. 

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