One of my earliest memories is sitting on the porch of Fey’s house with my great Uncle Leonard Super and my brother listening to a broadcast full of static of San Francisco Giants baseball as described by the dulcet tones of Lon Simmon’s mellifluous voice. Three Native Americans from the Karuk Tribe and our non-Native neighbor sipping iced tea, cracking jokes, wishing woes on the hated dodgers and enjoying listening to the boy’s of summer compete in America’s favorite game. Our own United Nations enclave of two culturally disparate households in racist isolated Northern California, united by the love of the game.
The SF Giants have been my team since childhood. I have been with them through thick (two World Series Championships) and thin (the forever imprinted memory of the 1989 World Series against the Oakland A’s that was interrupted by the devastating Lomas Prieta earthquake, me watching on TV as my emotions went from anticipation, joy and happiness to apprehension, fear, and horror.) Playing whiffle ball with my brother and I always fought over who got to be our favorite Giant, stars like Willy “Say Hey” Mays, Bobby Bonds, Willie McCovey, or those in the background like Chris Spier or Tito Fuentes. I remember yelling at Barry Bonds after his steroid scandal was exposed “Hey Barry, Barry Bonds, your head is freakishly huge.” I have been at a game at Candlestick Park that was so foggy that you couldn’t see the batter from our cheap seats in right field, and I went to the last night game at Candlestick. I have taken my son to a number of games and he is steeped in black and orange. I took him to Candlestick this spring so he could see it before they demolish it. I have been through the June swoons, the excitement of a promising rookie, and the annoyance at an overly generous contract to a player that never fulfilled the needs of the team. Boom or bust the Giants are my team, “Huuum Baby”.
This year they seem to be doing well on the field. It is off the field that they have problems. Ironically on Native American Heritage Night two American Indians (April Negrette and Kimball Bighorse) were accosted by SF Giants security over a headdress that was being worn by a non-Native fan. They were wronged and physically harmed during this unnecessary and preventable event. Both parties should have been treated in the same manner by Security: Bighorse and Negrette should not have been the only participants to be forcefully handcuffed, detained, and asked to leave the game. I feel that Mr. Bighorse and Ms. Negrette, were punished for speaking out about the harms of Native mascotry while the true wrong-doers were allowed their dignity, their bodies and their well-being to be uninjured.
Native Americans should be able to not only attend events free of harmful cultural misappropriation, in addition to being able to speak out about the desecration of Native cultures, people, and sacred items. American Indians have the same right and protection of the 1st amendment, as do other US citizens. Additionally, we have the Indian Civil Rights Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. These acts provide additionally support to Natives in exercising their rights. Speaking up should not have to be an act of courage.
Security for the Giants organization at ATT Park treated the parties involved in this dispute differently. Ignoring the concerns of the Native peoples involved in this incident highlights the lack of awareness around freedom of speech concerning Native Americans. It is my hope that the Giants organization will educate their personnel on how this has been an example of HATE SPEECH, as much as wearing blackface, and should be treated as such.
The Giants and Major League Baseball need to hear from you. Tell the organization why what happened on June 23rd is unacceptable, and that their policies and training need to move into the 21st century. Please send your comments and concerns to the San Francisco Giants: Call community relations at (415) 972-2000 ext. 5 for “Other”, and then ext. 3 for “Community Relations." You may also email email@example.com and ask that your message be distributed to President Laurence Baer, Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian R. Sabean, Security Manager Charles Allen, Senior Director, Security Tinie Roberson. The address for a general email message to the Giants is here.
The Giants have responded to the incident. Although they have apologized to Ms. Negrette and Mr. Bighorse they have not made settlement in a traditional nor Western manner. As a fan effected by this incident I feel the Giants owe the general public an apology as well. My main team, and their representatives, had two choices at the moment the incident occurred. They chose poorly. They took the all to familiar path of looking at an incident involving minorities and people from the dominant society and they chose to back the side they were comfortable with, the side they are most likely a part of (I do not know the ethnicity of the officers). I am tired of the same ol’ same old.
I wish I could go back to the days of sitting on the porch sharing the game with my friends and family unaware that the world is sometimes filled with ignorance and narrow-mindedness. But there will always be some; naive, stupid, bigoted or drunk person who will do something that is offensive to Native American fans. The tomahawk chop or the supposed Native chant that follows the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians will always be in our face (don’t get me started on their mascots.) But this is different. This is my team. I hope my beloved Giants step up and do the right thing now, follow through on what they promised in their statement. Until then I am unwilling to attend any games. Ouch!
Andre Cramblit is a Karuk Tribal Member from the Klamath and Salmon rivers in northwest California and the Operations Director of the Northern California Indian Development Council. He lives with his wife Wendy and son Kyle in Arcata, California, and hopes for the third San Francisco Giants World Series championship this season.