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Wyandotte? Why Not?

A Clevelander makes his case for an Indians' name change.


Mike Gallagher suffers from a common North Coast affliction. He's a partisan of the Tribe, that group of semiliterate millionaires that is the pride of Cleveland. But every spring, he must balance his affections with shame over the Chief Wahoo logo.

Such internal conflict is troublesome to Gallagher, a school administrator. "I go out to schools, and I see people want to be patriotic for Cleveland without having a guilty conscience."

Gallagher's cure: Change the team's name to the Cleveland Wyandottes.

The Wyandottes were like most displaced immigrants to arrive here. Originally from the Toronto area, they had their asses kicked west by the mightier Iroquois and eventually settled in Sandusky. For a region with 800,000 Catholics, they share the proper religious tradition. It's said that the first Mass in Ohio was delivered to the Wyandottes in the 1740s, some 70 years before those pesky Protestants showed up. They also put a reverse spin on the Indians' anti-P.C. karma: The Wyandottes were early pioneers of gender equity, with husbands and wives sharing fairly equal power.

Alas, they were eventually booted from Ohio in 1843, during The Great Honky Migration, and were the last tribe to leave the state.

Bob DiBiasio, Indians' VP of public relations, is a cheerful man with the misfortune of being the team's go-to guy on all matters Wahoo. "We don't comment on any specific [name proposals]," he says. Leaford Bearskin, chief of the Wyandotte Nation, which now calls Oklahoma home, was ill and could not be reached for comment.

But DiBiasio clings to the legend that the Indians' name dates to 1897, when a Penobscot named Louis Sockalexis played so well that fans started calling the team the Indians, a name adopted in 1915. It is, says DiBiasio, a matter of tradition and honor.

Yet it's hard to buy the tradition rap from a team that recently introduced sushi to the park. (It ain't even deep-fried.) And Gallagher argues that, because Clevelanders paid for Jacobs Field, fans should have some say in team affairs.

There are also practical issues at hand. In the 1970s, Indian activist Russell Means put a curse on the Tribe so they would never win a World Series. "I'm not going to lift my curse until they change that name," Means insists. And until that curse is killed, we may never get decent pitching.

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