A three year run as AFC west division Champions. The league’s highest ranked offense. Placed second in the AFC. One game away from the Super Bowl. Up-and- coming Quarterback named league MVP.
This is just a short list of the Kansas City Chiefs accomplishments in the 2018 football season. While fans have been raving over their successes, many Native American and Indigenous people haven’t been focusing on the touchdowns. With the KC Chiefs recent season, it has become harder for some Native peoples to ignore the franchise’s promotion of inaccurate stereotypes of Native people. Mark Morales, a Haskell student and ex-Chiefs fan says that he no longer attends KC Chiefs games because of the cultural appropriation that goes on there.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a long history of being culturally insensitive, starting at the very beginning with the conception of the team and its name. Jimmy Beason, of the Haskell American Indian Studies department, has created a Facebook page dedicated to informing people about the Boy Scouts of America’s organization known as the “Micosay Tribe” that led to the naming of the Kansas City Chiefs.
According to Mr. Beason, this fake Indian tribe is based in Missouri and was founded by H. Roe Bartle in the 1920’s. The organization has bizarre rituals and makes young boy scouts to go on “vision quests.” The scouts receive fake Indian names and have elaborate pow-wows. The organization has two camps in Missouri, which they call “reservations.” The “Micosay Tribe” was led by Bartle and followers called him “chief.” In 1956 Bartle became mayor of Kansas City, Missouri and the nickname remained. In 1963, the football team known as the Dallas Texans was relocated and renamed the “Chiefs” to honor the fake tribal leader.
Since the creation the team has adopted other culturally insensitive rituals. As part of the Chiefs pregame, a special guest is invited to lead the drum ceremony in which a oversized native drum is beaten to the rhythm of the “tomahawk chop.” The tomahawk chop is a fan chant originating with the Florida State Seminoles in the 1980s. The chant sung is a dumbed-down version of Native song reflecting the Indian stereotype created by Hollywood. The chant is accompanied by a “chopping” arm movement, giving it the name tomahawk chop.
It is well known that the Kansas City Chiefs are not the only sports team guilty of cultural appropriation. The Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins are two examples. The Cleveland Indians mascot known as “Chief Wahoo” is a characterization of Native American stereotype. Many movements and organizations, including Twitter’s #DeChief movement, have been placing pressure on the Cleveland franchise to remove the Chief Wahoo logo from all Cleveland parahanalia.
In 2018 a small battle was won and the Chief Wahoo logo was retired and will no longer appear on players on field. The Washington Redskins are well known for their racist mascot. The franchise constantly feels pressure from movements such as #ChangeTheMascot and #NotYourMascot. The #NotYourMascot movement is organized by ENOM (Eradicating Native Offensive Mascotry). The movement was formed by Jacqueline Keeler, an American writer and activist of Diné and Yankton Dakota heritage. The organization uses its presence to work toward the end of the use of Native American racial groups as mascots by franchises such as the Washington Redskins.
With movements like these targeting the organizations that use Native themes, it shouldn’t be long until the racism displayed by the Kansas City Chiefs gets the attention it needs to force a change. To quote Haskell student Broderick Roberts –
“No more. No more dressing in my ancestors traditional regalia. No more beating a fake imitation of our sacred drum. No more tomahawk chops. No more. We cannot take this bigotry anymore. Get rid of ALL Indigenous themed mascots, for they are not “honoring” but are harming. Chief Wahoo was just the start, to the racist teams in Washington and Kansas City, you are next.”