Braves to Meet with Native American Leaders About Future of ‘Tomahawk Chop’

Tomahawk Chop
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The Atlanta Braves organization will meet with representatives of various Native American groups, to discuss the future of the team’s 27-year-old tradition, the “Tomahawk Chop.”

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Braves have not yet decided which Native American groups they will meet with.

The issue of the “Tomahawk Chop” resurfaced last week after St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley, a member of the Cherokee Nation, blasted the chant for depicting natives as “this kind of caveman-type people way who aren’t intellectual.”

After Helsley’s criticisms, the Braves did not pass out foam tomahawks, play the chant music, or show the tomahawk graphic.

The Cherokee Nation, one of the tribes which inhabited Georgia, celebrated Helsley for taking a stand against the Braves long-standing tradition.

“The Cherokee Nation is proud of tribal citizen and Cardinals pitcher Ryan Helsley,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. wrote in a statement, “for speaking out against stereotypes and standing up for the dignity of Native Americans in this country.

“Hopefully Ryan’s actions will better inform the national conversation about inappropriate depictions of Native Americans.”

When the AJC asked the Braves about a possible long-term solution to the “Tomahawk Chop” issue, the team was non-committal and referred to their previous statement.

“We will continue to evaluate how we activate elements of our brand, as well as the overall in-game experience,” the team said in a statement. “We look forward to a continued dialogue with those in the Native American community after the postseason concludes.”

The Braves are not the only team that still uses a tomahawk chop, or chant. the Florida State Seminoles has almost the exact same tradition, and has performed it for years. For their part, the Seminole tribe has no issue with the long-standing FSU tradition.

“I don’t think they take any offense to anything that’s done at Florida State, by virtue of the positive relationship and the full scope of that relationship,” said Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. “They really believe that you have to look at it as a total relationship, and it’s not their business to get into what other entities do without fully understanding all of that.”

Still, given the resistance from tribes that once inhabited Georgia, and the fact that a single complaint from an MLB pitcher caused the Braves to stop the chop and chant during the playoffs, that does not bode well for the future of the “Tomahawk Chop.”

Activist groups have had some success removing Native American mascots in Major League Baseball. Most notably, the Cleveland Indians agreed to discontinue their use of the “Chief Wahoo” logo.

Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn

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