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Getting Rid of Cleveland Indians’ Logo, Chief Wahoo, Won’t Undo a Genocidal Legacy Printer friendly page Print This
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Wednesday, Feb 7, 2018

In the history of any people, origins matter. And as American Indians know all too well, origins built on racial superiority, followed by years of conquest, can lead to a never ending genocide. Consequently, after decades of shamefully rooting for a Major League baseball team’s racist logo, many Native Americans who haven’t forgotten the past are glad to finally see that the Cleveland Indians will no longer have Chief Wahoo.

Xenophobia and Lies Superimposed
Most American Indian “chiefs” were in fact never chiefs. To be sure, Europeans and white settlers projected chiefdom onto Native Americans because they couldn’t conceive of people living in a civil society without permanent formal rank or hierarchical structure based on land and wealth. Making a “chief” of someone was also a way to deal with somebody who could sale Native American lands or be used as a leverage to divide.

Chief Wahoo was moreover designed at the end of World War II, a time of heightened xenophobia. Not only did the cartoon caricature imitate the Nazi’s “Smiling Jew” with a large hooked nose, but its yellow face reflected the Asian horde. Meanwhile, “wahoo” was slang for a rustic yap or simpleton-an offensive term for someone that lacked intelligence or common sense. This, then, is what Native Americans had to endure.

But then both Indians and Africans were always represented as the “other” to whites, an “inferior other” to white supremacists. This white exceptionalism also led to unequal land deals and treaty negotiations and, of course, the concept of second class citizenship with few to no rights. Consequently, portraits of American Indians painted by whites usually denied them of belonging to highly advanced societies too-let alone sovereignty.

Chief Wahoo is merely another lie, a racial image that helps white Americans never have to face the truth about human equality, since it would reveal the real horrors of the massacres and genocides their government and ancestors committed. Even with the latest redesign which shows a smaller nose and red skin, the logo is still symbolic of how whites have always tried to superimpose their own views of Native Americans onto them.

Still No Official Body Counts
One only has to travel across Ohio-or the entire U.S. for that matter-to witness this erroneous perspective. Most markers, for instance, depict how Indians massacred whites. This seems odd, however, since they were the ones trying to defend against the invasions and conquests of their homelands which they had lived upon for millennia. It was they themselves who were victims of massacres, including starvation and reservations.

In Ohio, for instance, one marker disparagingly mentions Chief Logan as a menace to white settlers. There’s just one minor problem. It was members of his family who were massacred by whites, and which led him to favor war against the settlers. Even then, it was a “mourning war,” limiting the number of white victims to the number of his own people killed at the site of the massacre, Yellow Creek.

President Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Army actually used, disingenuously, Chief Logan’s mourning war to remove all Shawnee and Iroquois out of Ohio, and later Indiana and then Missouri, Kansas, and finally Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The marker also gets it wrong by stating: “The expeditions against he hostile Indian nations…checked the aggressions of the English and Indians on the frontiers of the New Republic.”

Since the Native Americans were hardly trying to extend their dominion eastward, instead trying to stop their own repeated forced removals, defining their acts as “aggression” is, to say the least, contradictory and bad history. It’s also a myth. And myths built on racial superiority against the “other” leads to mass slaughter and a never ending genocide-even genocide of the mind-that logo’s like Chief Wahoo gloss over and never make account.

One Nation Under Genocide
According to the United States Department of Justice, Native Americans experience per capita more than twice the rates of violence as the average American citizen. American Indians are also the victim of violence by those of other races more than 70 percent of the time. Consequently, the justice system in America has not yet been applied to its native sons and daughters-let alone a history of genocide.(1)

Nor does the justice system apply to crimes against Native Americans. To be sure, criminal acts against Indigenous peoples often go unreported because police officers nationwide are not equipped with the knowledge needed to understand Native American traditions and cultures. Seldom do police officers consider Native Americans as full-fledged citizens as well, worthy of their time or investigative importance.

At the moment, there are several potential team name options for the Cleveland Indians. Although names like the Cleveland Guardians and Tribe or Spiders have been proposed, would a better name be the Guilty or Reprobate? Indeed, and just like white superiority, racism isn’t born, it’s taught. It moreover blinds the oppressors who sear their consciences with more and more lies until they become the very prisoners of those lies.

If Major League Baseball is truly committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion, they shouldn’t they start by unburdening the past so the future isn’t threatened and the present can be accessible? Accessible, that is, for Native Americans to tell their own stories in the face of a racist empire which continues to whitewash its own genocide of indigenous peoples at the alters of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism.


Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for www.WN.com. You can read more of Dallas’ writings at www.beverlydarling.com and www.WN.com//dallasdarling.)


(1) www.searchcleveland.com. “Racism, Justice and the American Indian.”


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