May 24, 2012

Hockey team chooses "Tomahawks" name

‘Slapshot’ town embraces Indian nickname, logo

By Chuck HagaWhile the trend nationally has been for prep and collegiate sports teams to move away from American Indian-themed nicknames and logos, the new North American Hockey League Junior A team in Johnstown, Pa., announced Wednesday that it will be known as the Tomahawks.

The new logo, also unveiled Wednesday, is an Indian head over a crossed pair of cut-stone tomahawks.

Johnstown and its War Memorial Arena provided the setting for the classic 1977 movie “Slapshot” starring Paul Newman. The city was host to a NAHL team called the Johnstown Chiefs for 20 years until it moved to Greenville, S.C., in 2010.

The new name and logo provide links to the Chiefs, according to a statement from the team’s owners, who said they also chose “Tomahawks” and an Indian head logo “to symbolize the new team’s fighting spirit, exciting style of play and good sportsmanship,” according to a regional TV station’s report.

Thursday’s front page of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat carried a photo of team captain Jason Spence wearing a jersey with the new logo. The story was headlined, “Back on the warpath.”
And:Eric Knopsnyder, web and multimedia editor for the Tribune-Democrat, covered the news conference. In a telephone interview, he said nobody asked whether the team had discussed the possibility of reaction against the use of American Indian imagery in the team name and logo.

“Nobody brought it up,” he said.

“We had the Chiefs for a long time, and there was no controversy. The logo then was an arrowhead. And toward the end, the last owner introduced a mascot, ‘Tommy Hawk,’ a guy in a costume with an oversized head.”

There was no indication the new team owners planned to revive the Tommy Hawk mascot.
A member of the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe stated the obvious:“Racism against Native American appears to run deeper than it does with other minorities,” Longie said. “That could be because we are the least politically powerful. No one would consider using a mascot that represents black or Hispanic people.

“It also may be a push back for all the success we Native Americans across the country have had in getting educational institutions to stop using Native Americans as mascots.”

An indigenous response

On its Facebook page, F.A.I.R. (For Accurate Indigenous Representation) posted the following:We are NOT cool with this. Talk about going backwards. This North American Hockey Junior A team has just adopted a racist team name, logo, and all that goes with it.

We're going to ask our members to step up and be heard on this one.

North American Hockey League Junior A team in Johnstown, Pa., announced that it will be known as the Tomahawks.

They are in violation of the United Nations Declaration on The Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Articles 15 and 31. The U.S.A. is a signatory to this international Treaty.

"The Tomahawks’ first president, Rick Bouchard, is a UND graduate who played basketball for Coach Dave Gunther’s Sioux basketball teams in the late 1970s. His brother, Jim, is majority owner of the Tier II Junior A franchise."

Contact the NAHL:

North American Hockey League
5850 Town & Country Blvd.
Suite 301
Frisco, TX 75034
Telephone: (469) 252-3800
Fax: (214) 975-2250
E-Mail: Send a message to the NAHL

Johnstown Tomahawks
Cambria County War Memorial Arena
326 Napoleon Street Suite 115
Johnstown, PA 15901-1704
814.536.GOAL (4625)
Comment:  Hard to believe that someone would choose an Indian mascot these days. This one tops the Fighting Sioux mascot in terms of being offensive and racist.

Not surprisingly, the owners are graduates of UND, home of the Fighting Sioux. It's pretty clearly they based their logo on the Fighting Sioux logo. No doubt they're trying to keep the "savage Indian" concept alive. And sending a message about how they won't buckle to political pressure.

For more on Indian mascots, see Oregon Bans Indian Mascots and NCAA Punishes UND for "Fighting Sioux."

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