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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Organization representing Native Americans plans to ask Indianapolis Indians to change its name

The move comes amid a groundswell across the country, demanding that symbols many view as racist come down from public areas.

INDIANAPOLIS — English playwright William Shakespeare once asked, "What's in a name?"

The folks with the American Indian Center of Indiana would answer - a lot.

"This is a moment where people should remember whether they decided to be on the right side of history or not," said the center's executive director, Carolina Castoreno-Santana, who is also a member of the Lipan-Apache Tribe of Texas.

That's why the center plans to ask Indianapolis' Triple-A baseball team to change its name.

"They did make the step in 1995 of removing the racist kind of caricature that they had of indigenous people as their mascot, but the name for the mascot remains," Castorena-Santana explained.

The move comes amid a groundswell across the country, demanding that symbols many view as racist come down from public areas. That has included sports. The NFL team in Washington D.C. has agreed to change its name and mascot.

"A lot of people think even if we can get them to see how the term 'Redskins' is offensive as a racial slur, they don't understand why we would go after a team that are named 'Indians' or 'Warriors' or 'Braves' or 'Chiefs,'" said Castorena-Santana.

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"But the reason is, all of the imagery that is tied to that reduces our people to a mascot and to an image that is in the past," she added.

The center is also working with Cristal House, which is now managing Emmerich Manual High School, to change its mascot, which the school has agreed to do.

"People will often say, 'Don't you have bigger issues to worry about?' And my response is, 'Absolutely.' But if I can't get you to respect us as humans, like this is the bare minimum," said Castorena-Santana. "If I can't get you to respect us as humans, deserving of respect, enough to not reduce us to a mascot, I don't understand how I'm going to get you to really care about our issues like murdered and missing indigenous women, or treaty rights, or land rights, or water rights.

"A lot of people think we're trying to take their memories, but your memories remain," said Castorena-Santana. "I understand that people are nostalgic, but the memories you had with a school or with a sports team, those still exist. Those don't go away. This is literally just an opportunity for them to be on the right side of history and do the right thing.

"I would not want my point of pride to be tied to something that hurts other people," Castorena-Santana said of the mascots, who said they had not reached out the baseball team formally about this issue yet, but plan to soon.

A spokesperson for the team said they'd rather not comment on meetings before they've happened.