Most teams that use American Indian names and logos—the Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, University of Illinois Fighting Illini, have earned the criticism they get. They pay lip service to respecting American Indians but rarely do they actually do anything to show that respect, like change their names, or develop real ties with Indian Country.
This is not the case for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks. Named after team founder Frederic McLaughlin’s U.S. Army battalion in World War I (which called itself the Black Hawks in honor of American Indians), the team has taken real measures to form a relationship with the American Indian community in Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reports that team executives Jay Blunk and Pete Hassen recently joined Scott Sypolt, Executive Counsel for the American Indian Center on the North Side of Chicago, the oldest Indian center in the country, to view the 100-year old, 48-foot tall monolith called “The Eternal Indian,” which overlooks the Rock River in Oregon, Illinois.
“We are planning on helping Scott and other governmental agencies in the restoration and preservation of this giant statue,” Blunk said of the 1908 statue that was inspired by Black Hawk, the leader and warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe in the early 1800’s. “It’s one of the iconic statues across America that honor Native Americans.”
“We are planning on helping Scott and other governmental agencies in the restoration and preservation of this giant statue,” Blunk told the Tribune, speaking about the 1908 statue that was inspired by Black Hawk, the leader and warrior of the Sauk American Indian tribe in the early 1800’s. “It’s one of the iconic statues across America that honor Native Americans.”
The Blackhawk franchise is not only looking to help restore the statue, but to renovate parts of the American Indian Center and build a sports complex there. These are tangible commitments, a far cry from the lip service many teams pay to Indian Country. This past Sunday, the Blackhawks honored American Indian veterans during the national anthem before their game against the Edmonton Oilers. The Blackhawks won, 6-3.
Sypolt, Cherokee, told the Tribune that the commitment the Hawks are making is not just a public relations ploy. “There are many groups that approach us and say they want to do this and want to do that and many times we’re hesitant because we question their motives. The Blackhawks have been very genuine in wanting to help and have been very aware of cultural sensitivities. We’re very appreciative of that. They live up to everything they say they’re going to do”