New Essay: “Chief Wahoo” and Playing Indian in Sports: The Modern-Day Minstrel Show

"Cleveland Indians Fan" CC image courtesy of Ming-yen Hsu on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

"Cleveland Indians Fan" CC image courtesy of Ming-yen Hsu on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

In honor of the Cleveland Indians winning the AL pennant and making it to the World Series, I have a new essay up critiquing the use of Natives as logos/mascots by focusing on the Indian's "Chief Wahoo."

From the essay:

By continuing to display these logos/mascots of both the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins, fans of the symbols are creating a modern-day minstrel show that invites the public to act as the primary characters. Many sports media outlets and fans perpetuate the revised minstrel theme–once reserved primarily as blackface–as they redden their faces, put on facial war paint, and wear headdresses to games. As Eric Lott, in his essay “Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class,” quoted a blackface performer as saying, “I shall be rich in black fun,” many modern sports fans continue that cry proclaiming their dressing “Indian” as “fun” and “honoring” to American Indians. “Chief Wahoo,” as a caricature, is inviting to sports fans to become the caricature. Likewise, the Indian mascots of other sports teams are inviting to the public to become an “Indian.” However, their version of “Indian” is based on a caricature and not representative of reality. Therefore, many sports fans who enter arenas across the country dressed as “Indian” caricatures do no honoring of American Indians as much as they are trying to “honor” their team’s logo/mascot. These sports fans are only partaking in a public redface minstrel show that serves to further degrade the American and global consciousness of modern-day American Indians. 

Read the rest of the essay here.