by Rev. Kim Wells
Images matter. Yesterday in my daily news feed, I saw a stunning picture of a Native American man at Standing Rock. Tall. Upright. Principled. Visionary. Strong. Determined. Peaceful. These impressions were emanating from the image.
Later in the day, I was exposed to another image. My husband’s family is from Cleveland. This motivated us to take in interest in the World Series Baseball Championship between Cleveland and Chicago. As we watched the ending of the series, I felt continually assaulted by the Cleveland logo of Chief Wahoo, an offensive caricature of a Native American. The red color and the insulting cartoonish grin disgusted me.
The United Church of Christ along with other groups have been advocating for decades for the Cleveland Indians to change this horrific logo to no avail. The UCC headquarters are in Cleveland which gives the church added interest in this matter.
Seeing the juxtaposition of the person at Standing Rock and the crude Cleveland Indians logo helped me to see how truly awful the logo is. To me, it is not just entertainment, historic, and well-intentioned. Seeing the Chief Wahoo image flashed across the screen again and again and again last night gave me a feeling of revulsion. It is so disrespectful and demeaning and not just to those of Native American heritage. It is an insult to humanity in all its rich and beautiful diversity.
Today clergy from around the continent gather at Standing Rock in solidarity, respect and reverence for Native Peoples and for the Earth. This is recognition of the image of God in all people and the sacredness of Earth. It is also a reminder that Native Peoples are not treated equally in this supposed land of “liberty and justice for all.” This needs to change along with the logo of the Cleveland baseball team.