Native-Americans weigh in on 'Blackhawks' name

June 9, 2010 2:09:19 PM PDT
The countdown was under way Friday as the Chicago Blackhawks were set to return to the ice in Philadelphia, hoping to take Game 4 in their quest for the Stanley Cup.The hawks lead the best-of-seven series two games to one.

But how did the Blackhawks get their name? And how is that name -- and the team's logo-- perceived by Native Americans in the Chicago area.

Just a few years ago, protests over Chief Illiniwek grew so loud the University of Illinois dropped the mascot. In 1992, Naperville Central High School traded its Redskins mascot for a Redhawk.

But the Blackhawks have, for the most part, avoided much fury from Native American groups.

ABC7 Chicago wondered," why?"

"I'm cheering for the Blackhawks, for the Hawks. I'm going to say the Hawks," said Cyndee Fox-Starr, a Native-American.

Fox-Starr is full blood from the Omaha and Ottawa tribes. She's also a huge hockey fan. Back in the 1950s, her dad played on an all Native-American team that skated in full head-dress at the old Chicago stadium.

"I'm really torn on the logo part," Fox-Starr said.

The team name is derived from Chief Blackhawk, a person, rather than a tribe. In the early 1800s, he fought expansion by white settlers into Illinois and surrounding states.

The hockey team's first owner commanded a World War II unit nicknamed "The Blackhawk Division," after Chief Blackhawk.

"The stance is very clear. We want the logo to change," said Joe Podlasek of the American Indian Center.

Podlasek runs that center in Chicago and was instrumental in the fight to get the University of Illinois to bench its mascot, Chief Illiniwek. He says what makes the Blackhawks a bit better is they don't use a mascot to dance around and, in his opinion, mock his heritage.

In the locker room, players are told not to step on the chief logo, and fans in the stands don't do a tomahawk chop, like at Braves games in Atlanta.

But the Blackhawk logo is still a problem for some.

"For us, that's one of our grandfathers. Would you do that with your grandfather's picture? Would Take it and throw it on a rug? Walk on it and dance on it?" Podlasek said.

Some hockey fans say they are torn between their love of a team and loyalty to their heritage.

"As long as they treat it with respect, that's fine by me," Hara Jonathan said.

A few years ago, the NCAA decided schools cannot use Indian names, logos or mascots without permission from the particular tribe.

A spokesman for the Chicago Blackhawks told ABC7 Chicago the team does not get a lot of complaints about its logo.

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