Syracuse Chiefs’ imminent name change sparks community debate

first_imgNave, known by fans and front office members as the Chiefs’ “unofficial historian,” said he still hopes the Mets will keep the name. It means more than baseball, he said — the Chiefs are known in the community for hosting clinics and visiting hospitals.But Sid Hill, the Tadodaho, or traditional leader, of the Onondaga Nation — part of the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, Confederacy— said it’s time to move on from names that diminish and appropriate Native American culture.“We’re in this modern world, but we still have our ceremonies, we still have our leadership,” Hill said. “That’s not something that’s for sale. We’re not for sale.”The Chiefs have been in Syracuse since 1961, and although the organization has always had “Chiefs” in its title, change is nothing new. From 1997 to 2006 the team was known as the SkyChiefs, and featured a logo of baseball bat with wings coming out of it. In 2007, the team reverted to the Chiefs and changed the logo to a steam train.“I know that they’ve changed and they’re now referring to the chief of a locomotive,” Hill said. “That’s fine. But when you hear the name ‘Chiefs,’ they still look back at figures with the Sioux war bonnet and that whole stereotype.”Irv Lyons Jr., 61, is a member of the Onondaga Nation and the producer of the “Stage of Nations ECOFest” which is aimed to introduce people in Syracuse to Onondaga food, dance and culture. He said even though the Chiefs don’t use Native American imagery in its main logos, the use of the name still misrepresents the identities of Native American people.“The intent is to honor them,” said Lyons, “but the impact is devastating.”Lyons has lasting memories of having grown up and gone to school surrounded by offensive Native American imagery and names, he recalled.“When you’re marginalized in your own country and made to feel less than you are, it hurts,” Lyons said. “You don’t have to agree with people’s beliefs all the time, that’s naive.“But I’m going to respect your presence. And you’re going to respect mine. Right now we’re not doing that.”CORRECTION: In a previous version of this post, the SkyChiefs logo was incorrect. The logo is a baseball bat with wings coming out of it. The Daily Orange regrets this error.  Comments Published on July 29, 2018 at 8:48 pm UPDATED: August 13, 2018 at 10:32 p.m.Marty Nave and Dave Smolnycki sat at NBT Park for the 45th time this season, where they’ve watched their beloved Syracuse Chiefs play in over 3,000 games over the past four decades.Nave, 65, has come to Chiefs games for 56 years. He said the team’s name has become a part of the dialect of the city.“When you say ‘Chiefs,’ it’s synonymous with ‘baseball,’” Nave said.But for some members of the Onondaga Nation, the Chiefs’ name is synonymous with images and notions other than baseball.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe New York Mets — which bought the team from the Washington Nationals last year — plan to change the name of the team in 2019, which has sparked debate in the Syracuse community. Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more