- By Monica Whitepigeon
CHICAGO — As sports teams change their controversial names across the nation, the Chicago Blackhawks continues to stand its ground.
In a recent press release Wednesday, the NHL franchise announced that it will ban fans from wearing headdresses to games.
“[A]fter extensive and meaningful conversations with our Native American partner… headdresses will be prohibited for fans entering Blackhawks-sanctioned events… These symbols are sacred, traditionally reserved for leaders who have earned a place of great respect in their Tribe, and should not be generalized or used as a costume or for everyday wear.”
This news has been met with mixed reactions from Native people in Chicago. Many want to support their local hockey team and educate the public while others accuse the name of cultural appropriation and not an appropriate way to “honor” ancestors.
The team is named after Sac and Fox Chief Black Hawk, who fought for his tribe’s land rights in Illinois during the 1800s. The NHL club’s website provides a page to his legacy and mentions its partnership with Native-owned Trickster Art Gallery, located in Schaumburg, Ill.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Sac and Fox tribal ambassador Juaquin Hamilton said, “When we’re in town, the Blackhawks allow us a booth in the concourse [of the United Center] to pass out pamphlets and share history about our war leader [Black Hawk], our Olympian Jim Thorpe and our tribe.”
Blackhawks owner William “Rocky” Wirtz has been criticized for decades about the team’s name, its limited participation with Native groups across the city and overall poor management.
For post-doctoral scholar Meranda Roberts (Northern Paiute and Mexican-American), this most recent gesture needs to go further.
“Having fans no longer attend with headdresses is a start at rectifying the harm this team has caused Indigenous people in this city by being misrepresented or misunderstood,” said Roberts, who is currently working on the Field Museum’s Native North American Hall renovation.
“Mr. Wirtz needs to change the logo as it completely disrespects the legacy of Sauk leader Black Hawk. It also keeps us in the past and as if we are not here. Well, we are here, and we will not be silent about having our ancestors represented in the way they deserve.”
Officials from the Blackhawks could not be reached for comment.
More Stories Like ThisWATCH: Native Bidaské with Domestic Violence Prevention Specialist Kayla Woody Discuss the Dangers of Stalking
Native News Weekly (January 29, 2023): D.C. Briefs
7-Year-Old Boy Dies from Dog Attack on Fort Hall Reservation
Navajo Nation Elects Its First Female Speaker
WATCH: Indigenous Chef Crystal Wahpepah on Native Bidaske
Do you appreciate a Native perspective on the news?
For the past decade-plus, we’ve covered the important Indigenous stories that are often overlooked by other media. From the protests at Standing Rock and the toppling of colonizer statues during the racial equity protests, to the ongoing epidemic of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (MMIW), the attacks on tribal sovereignty at the Supreme Court and the past-due reckoning related to assimilation, cultural genocide and Indian Boarding Schools, we have been there to provide a Native perspective and elevate Native voices.
Our news is free for everyone to read, but it is not free to produce. That’s why we’re asking you to make a donation this month to help support our efforts. Any contribution — big or small — helps us remain a force for change in Indian Country and continue telling the stories that are so often ignored, erased or overlooked. Please consider a recurring monthly donation of $5 or $10 to help fund us throughout the year. Whatever you can do, it helps fund our Indigenous-led newsroom and our ability to cover Native news.
Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.