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On Monday, the first day of Native American Heritage Month and a day before Atlanta Braves won the World Series, the National Indian Health Board wrote a letter calling for the Atlanta baseball franchise to change its name and calling for the team to acknowledge the harmful nature of the continued use of Native inspired imagery.

The letter was written by Stacy A. Bohlen (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe), the organization’s chief operating officer. Bohlen addressed the letter to Terry McGuirk, chairman of the Atlanta Braves and Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr.

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Bohlen writes the “tomahawk chop” fan cheer is harmful.

“This cheer, which has been utilized by the team’s fan base since 1991, has routinely been denounced by organizations that represent American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) peoples,” Bohlen writes.

Bohlen cites the study, The psychosocial effects of Native American mascots: a comprehensive review of empirical research findings, released in June 2020 that says Native mascots “in particular lower self-esteem, lower community worth, less capacity to generate achievement-related possible selves, and greater levels of negative effect.”

“We call on the Braves to acknowledge their role in propagating harmful AI/AN stereotypes and imagery and change their name,” Bohlen continues.

Bohlen suggests Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Braves should follow in the footsteps of the Cleveland baseball team that changed its name from the “Indians” at the conclusion of this past baseball season and will be known as the Cleveland Guardians next year.

“In July, the Cleveland Indians announced their name change to the Cleveland Guardians. There is still more work to be done. Major League Baseball and the Atlanta Braves organization must work together to chart a path forward that is respectful of AI/AN people and our cultures. We believe that a sport that prides itself on being the National Pastime should be inclusive of all Americans,” Bohlen adds.

The National Indian Health Board becomes the third national Native American organization to call on the Atlanta baseball franchise drop its name and end the tomahawk chop. The National Congress of American Indians and IllumiNative denounced the Atlanta Braves organization for its continued usage of the Braves name and use of Native American imagery.                                         

The letter can be read here.

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