Malynn Foster
Art By Malynn Foster, Squaxin Island and Skokomish. Artwork can be found at Haitwas Studios, pinterest.com/haitwasstudios/stuff-we-make-at-haitwas-studios/

The Seahawks' Indigenous Connection: 5 Natives on Why They Just Can't Get Enough

Gyasi Ross
1/22/15

The Seattle Seahawks, as they get ready to crush the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, are undoubtedly the most Indian-nest professional sports team in the entire world, with the possible exception of the Arizona Coyotes and the Green Bay Packers.  I mean, sure, there are teams that are clearly Native-inspired—the Redskins, Chiefs, Blackhawks, Browns (AYEZZZZZ!!).  Yet those teams aren’t really that Native-friendly because they’re not really in locations where there are lot of Natives.  I mean, Chicago?  Washington, DC?  Kansas City?? 

Yikes. There’s a few Natives in those towns, but not a bunch. That says to me that those teams were probably NOT really named those Native-inspired names out of deference to Indian people. 

Art By Malynn Foster, Squaxin Island and Skokomish. Artwork can be found at Haitwas Studios, pinterest.com/haitwasstudios/stuff-we-make-at-haitwas-studios/

Natives loved seeing Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch getting into the Indigenous spirit by banging on a hand drum during the team's victory parade in 2014.

Plus each one of those franchises seems to like Natives in image only. Headdresses. War whooping. They don’t seem to really be interested in really knowing any Native people.  So they’re kinda lying…

The Seahawks, on the other hand—their very logo is strongly influenced by northwest coastal Native art. Great things inspire imitations—in the same way that so many Native people and white people and Asians are inspired by hip-hop, an artform created by black people, many people are inspired by our beautiful art. I know a few people hilariously throw a fit whenever any non-Native does art or clothing that is inspired by Native art or clothing, but many more love Native-inspired art.

This Kwakwaka‘wakw eagle mask is believed to be the inspiration for the original Seattle Seahawks logo.

Hey, Native people have some beautiful artwork, and of course it inspires people to want a piece of it. The Seahawks logo is a perfect example of that.  And we love it.

RELATED: Original Seattle Seahawk Found! (No, It's Not Steve Largent)

But also, the Seahawks are actually active and respectful of the HUGE Native community here in the Pacific Northwest. From speaking at graduations to speaking out against the Redskins mascot, the Seahawks have a GREAT relationship with the Native community up here, both urban and Reservation.  

It makes sense—the city that the Seahawks play in, Seattle, is named after a Native man from the Suquamish and Duwamish people. The Seahawks' stadium is literally in the front yard of the Duwamish people and the city of Seattle has a huge Native population that includes HUGE amounts of Alaska Natives, and lots of Natives from other places too.

We love 'em.  

Port Gamble S'Klallam Tribe

Chief Seattle Club, photo credit Deyo Esquivel

But don’t take my word for it—here are just a few Native Seahawks fans saying, in their own words, why they love the Seahawks so much:

Kelly Sullivan, Port Gamble S’klallam Tribe: “I wonder if it has to do with their uprising after such a long and painful struggle and giving something to have pride over? I think the logo definitely draws a certain interest or mutual respect maybe between native fans and the team, whereas redskins are so polar opposite. I just love them because my family always has. It has nothing to do with being Native.”

Sadekaronhes Esquivel, Colville Tribe: "Football was a big deal in our house on Sunday growing up. My dad was a huge football fan. I grew up in Washington, and the Seahawks were our local team. For me, it's mostly regional, I've been a fan since the '80s. I remember watching Steve Largent play, our first run for the AFC Championship, the Boz, moving to the NFC, almost losing the team, etc. I've always wanted Seattle to do well, even in the bad years.

Addressing the logo, I've never felt insulted by the mascot or logo. The logo shows our influence, but it doesn't replace us, as people. It never seemed malicious in its intent.

When I was little, I liked the Washington DC football team, because I thought it was cool that they were Native-themed. My father pointed out that they weren't a positive force. The crowds on TV, the Hollywood stereotypes, the ugliness of it all...that wasn't how he was trying to raise us. He was very traditional. He saw that team as an affront to all he held dear.

He never said anything against the Seahawks. He rooted for the Seahawks. He even got to see them win the Super Bowl, before he passed. I'll never be as big a fan as him, but watching the Seahawks play, I can still hear him yelling at refs or cheering an amazing play. For me, the Seahawks are a way to stay close to his memory."

Danny Leonard, Puyallup Tribe: "Love Faith Hope And Charity… for real though bro, that’s how every free life should be lived. Believing in yourself will always bring a new challenge so we must believe in each other ... I love my squad and nothing will break that..."

Trishandra Takenalive, Suquamish Tribe: "The fact that the city of Seattle was named after a Chief of these lands in which the stadium lays and the hawk plays!!! The feathers rep coastal peoples the logo screams NATIVE and they sport beadwork and drums as if they know BOUT THAT HAWK MEDICINE BABY."

Clarissa Stafford, Puyallup Tribe: “I was born in 1976 ... been watching games since before I can remember ... they have heart soul faith and fire ... what more can passionate fans ask for? #GOHawks"

Who do YOU have in this Super Bowl and why?

Gyasi Ross, Editor at Large
Blackfeet Nation/Suquamish Territories
Dad/Author/Attorney
www.cutbankcreekpress.com
Twitter: @BigIndianGyasi

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Sammy7's picture
Sammy7
Submitted by Sammy7 on
The Super Bowl is an annual pilgrimage to the lower world where the teachings of the Uktena and Piasa instruct the pilgrims most of whom never again see the sunlight.

swancj's picture
swancj
Submitted by swancj on
I want to point out, that the east coast does have fewer indigenous people, and I get the point being made in the opening paragraphs. But I also want to throw out there another related idea to that point: That population difference is in part, perhaps large part, due to the Removal Act of 1830. Some left, some were forced, many died. Many of us had ancestors who bribed the census takers to just change their race on the forms, in order to stay. I know that I look back at the earliest pictures of my great grandmothers, and grandparents, and I wonder how they managed to stay. I know that one thing they did was to tell their children to hide their heritage, to pretend, never to rock the boat. Should I blame them? Where do I go to change that reality for my children? When I hear First Americans who have had a different history kind of dismiss those of us who have had to cobble together our past -- when we are as invisible to other native people as we are to the dominant culture -- it just makes me sad. I wish the Ravens had made it to the Super Bowl again. Since they did not, I will root for the Seahawks. I am happy the Seahawks are a positive force in that community.Maybe I am jealous, too.
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