Wearing Someone Else's Culture: More on the Chicago Blackhawks

ICTMN Staff
6/19/13

"The stance is very clear. We want the [Chicago Blackhawks] logo to change," said Joe Podlasek, executive director of the American Indian Center of Chicago. "For us, that's one of our grandfathers. Would you do that with your grandfather's picture? Take it and throw it on a rug? Walk on it and dance on it?"

Podlasek said that in June 2010, when Chicago was battling the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here's what Podlasek says today, as Chicago battles the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals: "Our goal is not to remove Native imagery that is controversial, it's about teaching about it."

And in an article published by the Chicago Tribune this morning, June 19,  Podlasek says, "I am OK with both [the Chicago Blackhawks name and Indian head logo] as long as the educational process continues."

Apparently that stance back in 2010 wasn't so very clear.

Honoring American Indians? (NBCChicago.com)

The educational process Podlasek refers to is, as the Tribune details, a relationship the team developed with the American Indian Center of Chicago during its last championship season (2010). "The team has since posted a short biography of Black Hawk on its website, invited an American Indian veteran onto the ice for the National Anthem and supported an effort to renovate the Black Hawk statue in Oregon [, Illinois]." The NHL franchise is also paying for a brand new $60,000 gym at the Indian Center's facility.

"We all do contributions, but we don't do it for the sake of wanting to be forgiven for something we've done that's offensive," John Blackhawk, Chairman of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, told the Tribune. Blackhawk doesn't think doing positive things for Chicago's American Indian community excuses the NHL team from using an inappropriate name and logo.

For others, too, opposition to the use of the Blackhawks name and Indian logo hasn't changed since the last time Chicago played for the NHL title. Suzan Shown Harjo, Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee, president of the Morning Star Institute in Washington, D.C. and an ICTMN columnist, told the Tribune that the Blackhawks logo "lacks dignity. There's dignity in a school being named after a person or a people. There's dignity in a health clinic or hospital. There's nothing dignified in something being so named [that is used for] recreation or entertainment or fun."

Anthony Roy, First Nations Ojibway, is a hockey fan originally from Ontario but now living in Chicago. And following the Hawks run to the Stanley Cup title in 2010, he created a Facebook page opposing the club's use of a Native logo titled "This should be the Blackhawks Logo!" "I think people will wake up eventually," Roy told the Tribune. "People are getting louder. They're realizing that wearing someone else's culture has a negative effect."

WATCH: Anthony Roy talks with the Chicago Tribune about the Chicago Blackhawks Indian logo, which he finds offensive.

Although it may be the case that "protests [are] rare over [the] Blackhawks' name, logo," as the Tribune says, that doesn't mean there aren't protests over the name and logo. As CBS Chicago's Tim Baffoe observes, "Members of a racial minority see it as a small part of a greater problem ... While you and I might find it harmless, traditional, 'what it’s always been,' actual Native Americans see it another way ... It’s about who it offends, who it bothers, who it makes roll their eyes or shake their head. It is still offensive to some, voices that aren’t as loud as a majority ... Protestors’ voices were heard briefly in 2010 with the Hawks last Cup run, and then quickly quieted and were forgotten. But why doesn’t the logo get the negative attitude of other controversial team aspects?"

The typical Native logo, like the Blackhawks Indian, Harjo said, "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."

Perhaps the real problem about all of this is that the majority "quickly quieted" the protests, which "were forgotten," often by the mainstream media--or at least that's the perception. American Indians are here. And the Anthony Roy's are out there. And they're getting louder. Just ask Dan Snyder.

Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins is tonight in Boston. Face off is scheduled for 8 p.m./ET and NBCSN will air the game (check your local listings for coverage in your area). The Bruins lead the best-of-seven series two games to one.

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Joe Hedlund's picture
Joe Hedlund
Submitted by Joe Hedlund on
Good Luck with this, I don't see it going far. Its one of the most popular jerseys in all of sports.

Joe Hedlund's picture
Joe Hedlund
Submitted by Joe Hedlund on
Good Luck with this, I don't see it going far. Its one of the most popular jerseys in all of sports.
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