Native People grapple with Chiefs Tremendous Bowl celebrations

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Moontee Sinquah spent just one minute onstage contained in the Footprint Heart in downtown Phoenix throughout the NFL’s Super Bowl Opening Evening. But it surely’s a minute that may stay unforgettable.

The Native American hoop dancer had by no means been that near gamers and coaches about to compete within the league’s greatest recreation. As he and different Indigenous performers sang and danced, they heard elated whoops from Indigenous folks within the viewers.

It gave Sinquah chills.

“I’m simply actually grateful that they did spotlight our folks as a result of I believe it’s actually essential,” mentioned Sinquah, who’s a member of the Hopi-Tewa and Choctaw nations. However when he thinks of that inclusion coupled with Tremendous Bowl cameras panning to Kansas Metropolis Chiefs followers doing the maligned “tomahawk chop,” Sinquah says that juxtaposition leaves him “perplexed.”

“I believe that’s the one factor that actually bothers me about that complete factor is that, and I don’t know the place it got here from. And I don’t actually totally perceive it, however it’s virtually like a mockery,” Sinquah mentioned.

The Tremendous Bowl-winning Kansas Metropolis Chiefs launched into their victory lap Wednesday, with gamers and followers alike doing the “chop” throughout a raucous parade and rally. Indigenous persons are grappling with the nationwide highlight as soon as once more falling on the group’s mascot and fan “conflict chant” — which they deem racist. This previous week in Arizona, the place at the least 1 / 4 of the land base is tribal reservations, there’s been an advanced combine of pleasure for the NFL involving Native and Indigenous cultures however disdain for these cultures being appropriated.

Followers of the Chiefs way back adopted the chanting and arm motion symbolizing the brandishing of a tomahawk that started at Florida State College within the Eighties — although the varsity has an settlement with the Seminole tribe to make use of the moniker and tribal imagery. In 2020, the Chiefs banned headdresses and conflict paint within the stadium and pushed for cheerleaders to do the “chop” with a closed fist as an alternative of an open hand.

There have been a lot performing the chop in a purple sea of followers in Chiefs gear alongside the parade route and in entrance of Kansas Metropolis’s Union Station, the place the parade ended. The group then closed out the rally by doing the “chop” in unison in a slurry of confetti.

Andrea Robinson, an 18-year-old psychology main on the College of Kansas, hollered whereas doing the open-handed chop with the gang.

“I believe we must always hold it,” Robinson mentioned. “I imply we have to be respectful about it. I perceive however I imply it is a custom.”

David Cordray, a 38-year-old heating, cooling and refrigeration technician from Kansas Metropolis, Missouri, mentioned he would not see the hurt within the gesture or the mascot. He additionally pointed to adjustments such because the retirement of the reside mascot, a horse named “Warpaint” {that a} cheerleader would experience within the stadium after the group scored. Beforehand, a person donning a Native headdress rode the horse.

“In the event that they don’t assume it’s OK to do then possibly we must always cease. However the Native People I’ve are available contact with have mentioned that they didn’t have any points with it. Principally it’s all opinion-based,” Cordray mentioned. “We’ve gone a protracted solution to make it possible for we’re respectful of everyone’s tradition and being vigilant about it.”

The origin of the Chiefs nickname might have extra to do with the mayor who helped lure the franchise from Dallas in 1963 than any connection to Native People.

Mayor H. Roe Bartle was a big man often called “The Chief” for his a few years of management within the Boy Scouts. Crew proprietor Lamar Hunt reportedly named the group the Chiefs in honor of Bartle.

Even the reference to Bartle has undertones that some discover offensive. Although he was white, Bartle began the “Mic-O-Say Tribe,” a youth tenting group that is still energetic and continues to make use of Native American apparel and language. Younger contributors are “braves,” and the highest chief is the “chief.”

Chiefs President Mark Donovan mentioned final week that Bartle obtained permission from the Northern Arapaho Tribe to make use of the time period “chief.” Rhonda LeValdo, founding father of the Kansas Metropolis-based Indigenous activist group Not In Our Honor, disputed that narrative.

James Simermeyer, a member of the Coharie Tribe primarily based in North Carolina, watched many of the recreation from his house in Baltimore. He appreciated the involvement of Sinquah’s dance troupe and a College of Arizona scholar who’s Navajo and deaf utilizing Native American signal language throughout “America the Lovely” earlier than the sport. On the similar time, it felt like “one step ahead two steps again” when he heard the mantra Kansas Metropolis followers do throughout the chop.

With the publicity across the Chiefs’ win, Simermeyer mentioned it is like an implicit condoning of all of the issues Native and Indigenous folks discover hurtful.

“There’s no optimistic motive to assist it. But it surely simply sort of affirms the destructive conduct that Kansas Metropolis followers are doing,” Simermeyer mentioned. “I can’t think about what number of different persons are on the market and having the dialog with their non-Native colleagues about whether or not or not they’re offended by this.”


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