History of Native Names and Imagery in American Identity
It is undeniable that all past and present nations and civilizations of the world celebrated their early history and those people associated with that history through icons and names that represent that earlier period of history. America is no different.
As a majority of states within the United States have names based on American Indian Tribes and vocabulary along with official state and city seals carrying images of the American Indian as symbols of “Pride, Honor, and Respect”, the earliest inhabitants of this land are fittingly recognized.
States and City Seals
In the very early 1900s, as sports competition became more relevant and acceptable in the American education system, American names and images that represented the admirable qualities of Strength, Pride, Respect, Honor, and Dignity were adopted by thousands of athletic teams at every level of competition.
In fact, for decades, these names and images had near-unanimous support from the Native American community as they to have adopted these familiar names and icons to represent their athletic teams.
American Indian School logos
The Haskell Indian Nation’s “Fighting Indians” sports program has a rich history. Haskell fielded their first football team in 1896 and was referred to as the “powerhouse of the west” until 1930 as a result of them playing major competition from across the nation. Haskell basketball has brought national attention with its ability to attract American Indian talent to the basketball court.
The qualities of tenacity and perseverance were sought by individual public schools, colleges, and universities to associate with not just the schools but the community as a whole. These basic honorable traits and values were instilled in alumni as they ventured into the world around them.
The Fighting Sioux nickname was adopted in 1926 by the University of North Dakota. In 1969, a tribal delegation from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Devils Lake Sioux Tribe performed a special pipe ceremony, giving the Fighting Sioux name “forever” to the University in exchange for education. In 2012, mostly non-Native politicians and administrators took away the name and symbol “forever”. The iconic Fighting Sioux Indian head profile logo was introduced in 2001 as the official symbol of the UND athletic programs. It has been voted as the number one sports logo in college athletics.
Professional Teams Logos
Professional sports teams likewise followed the trend of taking on Native identities for their sports franchises. One of the most storied professional sports franchises of all time is the Washington Redskins. The team was named in honor of their first coach, a Sioux Indian, William Henry (Lonestar) Dietz out of respect for Native American heritage and tradition. The Redskins logo for many years was simply an encircled letter “R” until in 1974, former Blackfoot Tribal Chairman and President of the National Congress of American Indians, Walter “Blackie” Wetzel encouraged the team to truly honor Native Americans with an image of an American Indian. What resulted is the iconic Redskins logo based on a composite of Native American photographs including twentieth-century Blackfoot Chief "Two Guns Whitecalf."
Another storied professional sports franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks, was named after renowned Chief "Blackhawk" of the Sac and Fox Nation. The Blackhawks Indian profile logo is widely considered one of the very best in all of sports.
We Honor Our First Americans, as it is in remembrance of a glorious past and positive values for the future.