In the last few decades, several sports teams on every level have been trading traditional nicknames that were deemed offensive for a whole, new identity. Indigenous groups, in particular, have effectively voiced their displeasure with monikers like Redskins and mascots like Chief Wahoo. They’ve lobbied for a change. And in most cases, they’ve been successful.
But that hasn’t been the case for the Indianapolis Indians, who have held steady and say they aren’t going to be switching things up anytime soon.
Indianapolis is the Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they’ve announced that the team’s nickname will remain in place for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. No announcement was made for the future beyond that point. Indianapolis has had that name since 1902.
In the meantime, the team has also announced a partnership with the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana.
Many teams who have been identified by some kind of tribal affiliation have reached out in this manner to work with their local Native American community. Florida State, for example, has maintained an extended agreement with the Seminole Nation to observe certain customs and to handle the tribe’s traditions in a respectful manner.
The Indianapolis Indians are attempting to reconcile a similar situation in much the same way.
Some may consider it nothing more than a public relations move on the club’s part, but their management has stated that it’s more about honoring the legacy of the local indigenous community.
“We are pleased to work with the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana to help educate our fans about the rich history and culture of its tribe,” Indianapolis Chairman and CEO Bruce Schumacher said. “We look forward to using our platform to educate our fans by acknowledging, uplifting, and honoring those upon whose ancestral lands Victory Field is built.”
As Chief of the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana, Brian Buchanan sent some flowers back in the team’s direction, as well, indicating that all is fine between the two parties.
“We are grateful to the Indianapolis Indians for the opportunity to share our story with Hoosiers throughout central Indiana,” he said.
So for now, it appears the situation in Indianapolis is set to stay the same. But it will no doubt still receive its share of criticism. It’s believed there will still likely be protests when the Indianapolis Indians open play on March 31.
Two professional franchises have changed their team names regarding indigenous people since 2020. In Major League Baseball, the Cleveland organization went from the Indians to the Guardians.
However, the NFL’s Washington Commanders name change is the one that drew the most attention. After having been called the Redskins since 1933, owner Daniel Snyder had famously vowed to never re-brand the team He eventually caved, re-introducing them as ‘The Washington Football Team’ for two seasons. They eventually became the Commanders in 2022.