SPOKANE, Wash. – The Spokane Indians baseball team and the Spokane Tribe held a joint press conference on Nov. 29 to unveil new team logos and uniforms. The tribe has been actively involved in the process to ensure that tribal culture was honored and the tribe’s cultural committee has been involved from the beginning of the process.
When the new logos were unveiled it brought many “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience, many of whom were Native people. Not only was the Spokane Tribe represented, but the Kalispel, Colville, Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene tribes as well. This may be the first time a professional team has worked in conjunction with a local tribe in the creation of a team identity.
The new primary logo features two eagle feathers on either side of an S taken from an early 1970s uniform to incorporate a nostalgic feel. An alternate logo features words in the Native language that translate to “Spokane Indians Baseball Club” and this logo will be used on certain occasions at home games.
The team, now an affiliate of the Texas Rangers, has been in existence for 104 years and has not disrespected the tribe that anyone could recall. No American Indian imagery has been used by the team for the past two decades. Otto Klein, senior vice president for the team, conducted the press conference and introduced John and Mary McCormack, son and daughter of Eli McCormack: “The best-known Native American to ever play for the Spokane Indians and also one of the most popular of all time,” he related.
Klein said that when a new logo and uniform were suggested, one of the first steps was to meet with the tribe’s cultural committee. He asked them, “Have we been respectful? Should we change our name? Is the avoidance of Native American imagery the best way to show respect?” The answers received indicated the tribe is proud of their association with the team and was pleased with the respect in the name and logo. Tribal cultural committee members added they might even prefer that American Indian imagery be included if it were done respectively and collaboratively. “We were totally energized by the response of the tribe,” Klein added.
In a prepared release, team President Andrew Billig commented, “We wanted this new identity to show respect for the Spokane Tribe and honor the rich 104-year history of the team. I think we accomplished both of our goals.”
Richard Sherwood, chairman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, wrote in a letter to the baseball team: “After carefully reviewing your proposed team logos the Spokane Tribe of Indians and our Tribal Culture committee unanimously approve of the logos. By you taking the responsibility of consulting with the Spokane Tribe of Indians we hope this will become a leading example for other companies and sporting groups.”
Tribal councilmen Matt Wynne and Gerald Nicodemus took the microphone to speak to the crowd. Wynne said, “When we get together and look at something from both our cultural point of view and the baseball team’s point of view we can come together and come up with a really good idea.” Nicodemus added, “I want to make it known that the club went out of its way, when they decided to change the logo and uniform, to reach out to the tribe. The team reps have been great and you couldn’t ask for a better partnership. I’m excited!”
He continued, “Around the country people are battling over the use of mascots, but in our case it’s all been favorable. They [the team] asked us what offended us, or if it didn’t, so it was an ongoing working relationship that resulted in what you’re seeing today. I think the use of the Salish language will make it a big seller.”
The team has no plans for an Indian-themed mascot. The present mascot is popular and well-known, is there to entertain and is not associated as a caricature of a Native.
The conference began with a drum group from Wellpinit High School. Pat Moses, a tribal member and teacher at Wellpinit, offered an opening prayer which was followed by an honor song. The standing-room audience included Little Miss Spokane and Miss Spokane from the tribe, plus many tribal members, media representatives and fans of the ball club.