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Should the Atlanta Braves change its name? Here's what indigenous people think

Not all tribes feel the same when it comes to Georgia's major league baseball team.
Credit: Robert Hainer / stock.adobe.com

ATLANTA — Native American representation in major league sports has garnered differing opinions -- even when it comes to the Atlanta Braves.

And it's not just the fan base who is sounding off.

The Muscogee Nation supports changing the name while the eastern band of Cherokee Indians supports keeping it.  

Crystal Echo Hawk founded Illuminative, a national women-led organization that worked with the Washington Commanders to change their name. She hopes the Braves will follow suit.

“It's a combination of things, especially when you start to see the racist fan behavior," she said. "That's the Tomahawk chop, the red face, the turkey feathers, the drums, and also the hate speech that gets to be used by the rival teams.”

Hawk explained the culture that surrounds the Braves is drawn from a community of people. She pointed to the Tomahawk chop. The zeal that comes along with it is well-known at Atlanta Braves games but Hawk said it's also a misrepresentation.

“I think what people need to understand is that that that Tomahawk chop has nothing to do with the traditional tribes' practice," she said.

However, Donald Kirkland with the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns said how one tribe feels isn't necessarily the sentiment across the board.

There are more than 600 state and federally recognized tribes. There's not a single issue that those tribes in that community are going to have consensus on," Kirkland said.

He's the vice chairman of the council and said the Braves organization gets feedback from many indigenous leaders. 

“There are multiple members representing our tribes on the Braves Native American Working Group. So their voice is heard there, consulted with any decision. They're asked if things are appropriate; if they're offended by things," he explained.

It's partially why Monument Garden at Truist Park exists. Erected in 2020, people who walk by can come across the Native American display. It features everything from stickball to Cherokee language.

Some believe the prominent display doesn't stand against the hate speech that's associated with Braves' games.

“They're cheering against and they're like, 'kill the Indians, put them on the trail of tears, exterminate them,'” Hawk said of rival fans.

Though there are efforts to change the name - Kirkland said it likely won't be a full consensus. 

I don't know anybody who is offended by being called a Brave," he said. "That's something a title that's held in high esteem in the Native American community."

This story is part of a series of stories done by 11Alive's Dawn White for Native American Heritage Month.


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