Cultural symbols and traditional names are part of a new look for the Mohegan Tribe's women's basketball team.
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchise Connecticut Sun introduced new jerseys as a way to honor the heritage of the team's tribal owners.
The WNBA on Thursday unveiled three new looks for each of its 12 teams as part of the league's 25th anniversary celebration. The jerseys are designed to reflect stories of “female archetypes” in each of the teams' communities.
“We were very pleased with the entire uniform design process,” Kathy Regan-Pyne, Mohegan Tribal Council recording secretary, said in a statement. “Nike demonstrated their commitment to getting it right; they consulted and worked with us as a team. Members of the tribal council and Council of Elders, our chief and our medicine woman were all involved in some fashion. It was a collaborative effort; we all absolutely love the end result.”
The Sun play their games at the 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena, which is part of a casino resort on tribal land in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Mohegan Tribe was the first tribe to own a professional sports team when it purchased the Orlando Miracle, which it relocated and renamed in 2003.
Chief Many Hearts Lynn Malerba said it was important to the Mohegans that they be the ones to determine the images associated with the tribe and the team.
“The jerseys are important because there has been so much cultural appropriation and also just a lack of understanding of truly what it means to be Native in this country,” she said. “We own this narrative. This is our narrative and we are the only ones that can tell it.”
The team's three looks will each include references to the tribe, including a Mohegan symbol first painted on bark and traditional baskets hundreds of years ago. The mark's 13 dots have several meanings to the tribe, including the 13 moons of the year and the 13 sections on the shell of the turtle on which mother Earth was created, the chief said.
One jersey will honor Gladys Tantaquidgeon, the tribe's former medicine woman, who died in 2005 at age 106. She was an anthropologist, author, tribal council member and tribal elder.
“Women in our tribe have always played a very essential leadership role,” said Beth Morning Deer Regan, the vice chairwoman and justice for the Mohegan Tribal Council of Elders. ”And so we see our women's basketball team as leaders in social justice, just as our most admired former female tribal leaders were as well."
The jersey will be blue, the color of the regalia Tantaquidgeon wore, and its neckline includes images of canoes the tribe once used. The jersey will have the Mohegan word for sun, Keesusk, across the front.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.