The Indianapolis Indians baseball team announced plans Wednesday to keep its name while partnering with the Miami Nation of Indians of Indiana.
The team announced this week that it will be keeping its name for the 2023 and 2024 seasons while it explores programs with the Miami.
The partnership will include a land acknowledgment, recognition of Miami veterans, support of a Miami scholarship program, and fan education opportunities.
The decision comes as sports teams across the country continue to grapple with whether they use names or imagery that could be considered offensive.
The Indianapolis Indians have had the same name since 1902. The team announced it would form a committee to evaluate the name in 2020, saying it had not been endorsed by some but “trust they understand the historic and respectful context in which it has been used over the years.”
Miami Nation Chief Brian Buchanan said he’s never felt there was a problem with the name of the city’s minor league baseball team.
“You put a name out there and how you portray that name is what makes the difference,” he said. “The Indianapolis Indians in the way they’ve handled everything has been completely respectful all the way from the get go.”
Bruce Schumacher is chairman and CEO of the Indianapolis Indians. He said when the committee began looking into whether there was an issue with having “Indian” in the team name, it quickly found there was no consensus.
“We saw very early on there is no unanimity on this issue,” he said. “People feel many different ways about it. When we talked to Chief Buchanan and the Miamis of Indiana, I flat out asked him: ‘How do you feel about sports team nicknames related to Indians in any way and the Indianapolis Indians specifically?’ And he said ‘It’s an honor, there is a lot you could do with it, and we hope you don’t change.’”
Schumacher sees the partnership with the Miami as an opportunity for education.
“It’s a matter, as we go forward now, of fleshing out what the Indianapolis Indians baseball team can do to help them tell their history,” he said. “And something that I think is also very important is that they are still here in the present time. I think some folks – especially younger folks – don’t realize the Chief Buchanans and members of his council are living and working in our communities today.”
The exact details of what the Indianapolis Indians will do during the partnership have not been ironed out, but Schumacher said a land acknowledgement will be read before every home game.
That acknowledgement mentions not just the Miami, but also includes the Potawatomi, Shawnee, Delaware, Peoria, and Kickapoo peoples.
Buchanan emphasized that he feels the partnership is a great platform for education – but it’s only a partnership.
“We don’t own the Indianapolis Indians,” he said. “We’re just here as advisors in this partnership to try and teach the fanbase and the citizens of Indiana the Miami culture and Miami ways.”
The ballclub’s season opener is Friday, March 31.
Contact WBAA/WFYI reporter Benjamin Thorp at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @sad_radio_lad.