Portland Press Herald - The Cleveland Indians hope to win their first World Series since 1948 this fall. Many members of the Penobscot Nation – from whence the team’s namesake player came – hope it will be the baseball team’s last season with the controversial “Chief Wahoo” logo.
Cleveland’s team is called the Indians because of Louis Sockalexis, a native of the Penobscots’ Indian Island reservation in Maine and a gifted athlete who was the first recognized Native American to play in the major leagues when he joined the team in 1897. He died 16 years later at age 42 in a logging accident in northern Maine, his career cut short by alcoholism and hampered by racist jeers from fans and insulting dispatches from sportswriters, who never tired of references to scalping, warpaths, firewater and General Custer.
“The legacy is something that Sockalexis left, as far as I’m concerned,” Penobscot tribal elder and council member Donna Loring says of the team’s nickname. “But the logo is very demeaning, and it’s insulting.”
The Penobscot Nation petitioned the team to stop using its “Chief Wahoo” mascot – a cartoonish red-skinned Indian with an exaggerated nose, toothy grin and a warrior’s feather – in 2000. The team has never responded. In a 2007 interview with the Portland Press Herald, the team’s vice president for public relations, Bob DiBiasio, said the team would not open a dialogue with the tribe on the issue.
“We ask, if there is no intent to demean, can it be demeaning?” said DiBiasio, who still holds the position. “We have no intent to demean.”