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Even more than the Atlanta Braves (stupid), the Cleveland Indians (idiotic), and the Washington Redskins (overtly but mindlessly racist), the use of Blackhawk in Chicago makes me angry.
We rationalize that using his name "honors" him when we - the Army we pay for - spent years trying to murder him.
It's not merely an accidental theft of a tribal icon to make a buck; it's deliberate cultural cancellation.
What's more, the hockey team is not even actually named after him.
Frederic McLaughlin, the first owner of the Chicago Blackhawks, named the team after the 86th Army Infantry Division, which was called the Blackhawk Division in WWI. The Army stole his name first. McLaughlin, "fiercely patriotic," stole it from them.
That only makes me angrier. The Army spent a decade trying to track down the Sauk chief now taken as the Chicago Blackhawk and kill him - unsuccessfully. They managed to kill 600 of his tribe.
The American military which gunned down most of Blackhawk's tribe should not see that relationship as one to celebrate without an abject apology. Of course, no one asked the Sauks and Fox in 1916 if they wanted the Army that tried to murder all of them, and their chief, to take his name and place it on tanks.
What's more, that's not even his real name. He was not Blackhawk or Black Hawk. He was: Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak. "Blackhawk" was made up by idiot white politicians.
I wrote about "Blackhawk" for a suburban magazine last year. The summary:
* We stole Northern Illinois from him. All of it, from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.
* We stole his home villages.
* We tried to kill him and managed to murder most of his tribe.
* We turned over the last remnant of his tribe to Sioux mercenaries to be murdered. They were.
* Then we took his name - twice - to "honor" him.
Blackhawk would have seen this as predictable and typical. He did not like Americans. He had good reason then and good reasons now.
At the least, the state that stole Blackhawk's life and prosperity should return his name with honor. And then leave it alone forever because it's not ours.
We are thieves.
No one should have to tell us it's a bad thing that we stole someone's name for a buck.
Even Americans know stealing is wrong.
And he wasn't just any ol' Native American. He was one of the great Native Americans of the 19th century. He is not a cartoon amalgamation of bigotry. He was an actual man with an actual life. I have read his autobiography, which he dictated to white friends.
Blackhawks management and their fans are laboring under a self-enhanced delusion. Just because you stole something a long time ago does not make it yours. The last thing anyone should need is for some Fox or Sauk heirs to stand up and demand the name be returned.
The Blackhawks should step up and do what's honorable.
It's the right thing to do.
We remember what that is, right?
Recently by David Rutter:
* On Boredom.
David Rutter is the former publisher/editor of the Lake County News-Sun, and more importantly, the former author of the Beachwood's late, great "The Week In WTF" column. You can also check him out at his Theeditor50's blog. He welcomes your comments.
1. From Jim Coffman:
The Blackhawks don't have to change their name immediately, but clearly they should change it. I have some suggestions.
From here forward the official team name is Black Hawk, not Blackhawks. And the logo is changed to something resembling the image of Black Hawk contained in David Rutter's brilliant column.
And most importantly, Blackhawk staff gets to work, today, on a comprehensive biography of Black Hawk and on a story of the glory of Native Americans on this land. Yes, Americans committed genocide against them, but their history is so, so much more than that. Their history is 99.999 percent the history of mankind on Earth.
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