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In Chicago, the 'Blackhawks' nickname isn't a big issue

  • Blog Post by: Howard Sinker
  • June 19, 2013 - 9:19 AM

The University of North Dakota's ongoing Fighting Sioux controversy may be in its final stages. In Chicago, where the hometown hockey team is playing in the Stanley Cup Finals, the Blackhawks nickname has not aroused the same passions, according to a Chicago Tribune story.

According to John Keilman's story: "Observers have numerous theories about why that's the case, ranging from hockey's relatively minor status on the national sports scene to Chicago's small American Indian community to the team's support of a local American Indian organization. Also, a name such as 'Redskins' is widely considered by American Indians to be a racist slur; judging the propriety of 'Blackhawks' is a much more subtle and complicated issue."

The story of Chief Blackhawk is wrapped in another of the bloody 19th century battles between the U.S. government and tribes, in this case members of the Sauk and Fox bands. Chief Black Hawk was captured, imprisoned and eventually freed -- after which he returned to family in Iowa.

Keilman writes: "But like many Indian leaders who met tragic fates, Black Hawk held an allure for white Americans, who saw him as a symbol of courage and nobility. In 1911, Chicago sculptor Lorado Taft completed a 50-foot concrete statue, inspired by Black Hawk, that stands by the Rock River in Oregon, Ill. The Tribune's account of the unveiling said the statue was 'dedicated to a vanishing race.' "

Such sentiment is part of the problem, said Indian rights activist Suzan Harjo, explaining that the typical Indian logo "relegates native people to a certain time in history that's not today, and it's intended to do so. It's not something that reflects anything that's current. It kind of keeps us in the backwater of history."

Harjo told the Tribune that the Blackhawks logo has not been as much of an issue because pro hockey is not as much of a cultural influence as football, where the Washington Redskins nickname is a more frequent target of activists, politicians and others.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a school district employee who works with American Indian students explained the lack of outcry this way: "In our small community, the divides become very difficult. Sometimes it's just easier to go along with what's happening."

The director of the American Indian Center of Chicago said the team has reached out to his organization, including a $60,000 donation to help remodel its building on the city's north side. "I am OK with both (the name and Indian head logo) as long as the educational process continues," Joseph Podlasek said.

But John Black Hawk, chairman of the Winnebago tribe in Nebraska, said that making contributions doesn't make up for history. The name and logo is still inappropriate, he said.

"We all do contributions," Blackhawk told the Tribune. "But we don't do it for the sake of wanting to be forgiven for something we've done that's offensive."

You can read the full story here.

 

 

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