Before the fifth game of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley made a statement about the “Tomahawk chop”, the opening chant that initiates each of the Braves’ home games in SunTrust Park.
As a member of Cherokee Nation, Helsley finds the chop disrespectful, quoting “I think it’s a misrepresentation of the Cherokee people or Native Americans in general. Just depicts them in this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual. They are a lot more than that. It’s not me being offended by the whole mascot thing. It’s not. It’s about the misconception of us, the Native Americas, and it devalues us and how we’re perceived in that way, or used as mascots. The Redskins and stuff like that.”
As a result, the foam tomahawk filling the SunTrust Park stadium were removed before the fifth game. The Braves publically responded before the fifth game, elaborating:
“Out of respect for the concerns expressed by Mr. Helsley, we will take several efforts to reduce the Tomahawk Chop during our in-ballpark presentation today. Among other things, these steps include not distributing foam tomahawks to each seat and not playing the accompanying music or using Chop-related graphics when Mr. Helsley is in the game. As stated earlier, we will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience. We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.”
Did you know: The St. Louis region has a Native American community that cherishes and values their culture. This community attends and participates in a powwow at Washington University that takes place each spring, and Native American artisans regularly exhibit at Cahokia Mounds. From November 29th – December 1st, be sure to attend the Annual Fall Native American Holiday Market.
On October 16, Washington University is hosting a candlelight vigil at Nussbaum Plaza to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. The Katherine M. Buder Center for American Indian Studies, founded to provide scholarships for American Indians, is sponsoring this event.