Native American groups on Wednesday rebuffed Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred’s claim that Indigenous communities support the Atlanta Braves tomahawk chop.
Manfred told reporters at the World Series on Tuesday that Native Americans near Atlanta weren’t afraid to see Braves fans singing in a fake war cry during games at Truist Park in Cobb County, north of Atlanta.
“The Braves have done a phenomenal job with the Native American community”, Manfred said on the grounds of Minute Maid Park in Houston. âThe Native American community in this region fully supports the Braves program, including the chop.
“And for me, it’s kind of the end of the story,” he continued. “In this market, given the Native American community, it works.”
But Jason Salsman, spokesperson for Chief David Hill of the Muscogee Nation, said Manfred could not base his opinion on any position of an indigenous community.
âIf you go out and get a band here or there and say you’re good, I don’t think that’s how Indian Country works,â Salsman said. “You have to talk to the whole Indian country and make sure you get a big consensus. I wouldn’t say they have that.”
The ancestral lands of the Muscogee Nation, before their forced relocation to what is now Oklahoma along the Deadly Trail of Tears in the 19th century, lies in what is now Georgia. The tribe can’t stand the tomahawk chop.
âI think for us with the tomahawk chop you don’t get anything really authentic,â Salsman said. “You get something more cartoonish.”
Manfred said he consulted with the local Cherokees. None of the three federally recognized Cherokee bands are based in Georgia.
The Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee United Keetowah Indian Band were forcibly evicted to Oklahoma, where they remain. The eastern band of the Cherokee Indians remains in neighboring North Carolina, and Senior Chief Richard Sneed has said for years that the tribe does not support the Joy of the Braves.
Crystal Echo Hawk, registered member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and chair of indigenous rights group IllumiNative, said, “We can’t let this be a local indigenous issue. The pictures, the song, the face red are not only having a local impact – it has an impact on all indigenous people. â
Stephanie Fryberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a member of the Tulalip Tribes, said the effect of such mascots and gestures is not always immediately obvious. There are decades of research documenting the psychological damage associated with indigenous themed mascots and the behavior associated with game days, âshe said in a statement.
The Washington football team changed its racist nickname last year, and the Cleveland baseball team ditched its long-standing nickname for a brand new, The Guardian, starting next year.
Echo Hawk and others also pointed out that psychological research has shown for years that the use of Native American images and mascots in sports negatively impacts the mental health of Native and non-Native children.
Matthieu mulligan and Cyrus Farivar contributed.