Two years ago, the Cleveland Indians decided to ban the Chief Wahoo logo. Yesterday the club announced to change its moniker as well. But with that, the name Indians hasn’t disappeared from professional baseball completely. There is still a minor league club sporting that name and it will stick for sure.
We are talking about the Spokane Indians. Sure the name was chosen in a time that they didn’t think about names like that could hurt. But through the years, the Spokane ball club did everything to make the moniker acceptable.
Lots of talking took place. The club asked the tribe if they were happy with the nameIndians. The council of the tribe answered confirmative. Knowing that, the club wanted to incorporate as many images that are important for the tribe into its brand. When the ball club asked what type of imagery is important to the tribe, they said, the salmon, the horse, the eagle, the feather, the wolf, the river, etc, etc. Eventually both parties agreed on the use of a single eagle feather in the cap logo.
Eventually, in 2006, the Spokane Indians and the local Salish tribe hammered out an agreement by collaborating on a rebranding of the baseball’s team logo, becoming the first pairing of a team and tribe to respectfully agree on the use of local native imagery.
In fact the cooperation between the ball club and the tribe is a unique partnership in the world of professional sports. Everything is done to honor the Salish tribe heritage. As a result, a second primary logo in the Salish language was created:
But the ball club went a step further. In 2014, the team announced a new home alternate uniform, a uniform that used the name ‘Spokane’ written in the Salish language, the native language of the Spokane Tribe of Indians. ‘Sp’q’n’i?’ is featured in lettering across the chest. Beginning in 2015, the Salish jersey became the primary home jersey for all 38 home games – believed to be the first Native American language to be featured on a professional sports team’s primary jersey.
In 2018, the ball club went another step further. Since then, the club is wearing road batting and alternate jerseys with the same script in the Salish language.
Also in 2018, the partners worked on markers that adorned Avista Stadium and showed the history of the tribe and the cooperation with the ball club: “These markers were installed throughout Avista Stadium Hall-of-Fame Plaza for the enjoyment and education of fans. Each marker covers a different topic, including Elders and Youth, Traditional Lifeways, Language/Culture Program, and the Partnership between the Tribe and the Team.” (1)
With only a handful of fluent Salish speakers in the Spokane dialect, the cooperation has helped to bring a renewed life to the Salish language. Throughout Avista Stadium the Salish language is incorporated under English signs where possible, including on the home and visitor’s clubhouse, concessions signage, and other directional signage.
Eventually in 2017, the ball club incorporated a jersey that sported the Redband Trout (one of the items the Salish tribe deem important) to pay attention to the dwindling numbers of this species.
So thanks to a positive attitude from both sides, the name Indians doesn’t have this negative sounding in Spokane. In fact the ball club has become a tool to promote the Salish tribe’s language.
(1) Spokane Indians website