After Addison Russell's grand slam Tuesday night in a World Series Game Six that ought to be considered little more than a day of rest for Corey Kluber and the "firm of Shaw, Miller & Allen" — the Fox camera tilted up the Progressive Field bleachers and revealed a fan brandishing a homemade sign above his head: #NoDAPL, it read.
That's the hashtag in protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the $3.8 billion construction of which has inspired the most significant protest by Native Americans in decades. Cleveland Chiricahua Apache Robert Roche, who went to North Dakota's Standing Rock Reservation last month and intends to return, told Scene that people out there were calling it "the new Wounded Knee."
Recent clashes between militarized security forces, (some from local police agencies; some furnished by states like Ohio
; and some, with shady international ties
, hired by the pipeline's owner Energy Transfer Partners) and the protesters, largely Native Americans who refer to themselves as Water Protectors, have galvanized a corps of celebrity supporters and social media activists and pushed long-overdue conversations into the national spotlight: conversations about the environment, about the value of human beings vs. corporate profits, and about the United States' appalling track record with indigenous peoples.
That the track record is appalling is beyond dispute. It continues to this day in the systematic disregard and circumvention of land treaties, treaties that have been systematically disregarded and circumvented for centuries, usually at the behest of American business interests. See, e.g. the Black Hills Gold Rush
still disputed — and hotly, these days — is how native mascotry fits in to the copious fabric of American abuse toward native peoples. During the World Series, this has been a hot-button topic, and it's one that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred signaled he would deal with (at least as it pertained to Chief Wahoo, professional baseball's most flagrant case) in a private conversation with Indians' ownership after the World Series.
In some ways, it can be regarded as fortuitous that the Cleveland Indians advanced as far as they have, so that the discrepancy between what's happening in Cleveland and Chicago vs. what's happening in North Dakota can be more clearly witnessed and analyzed — "an absurdly grotesque twist," said Sam Laird, in an opinion piece on Mashable
The convergence might mean very little to many Cleveland Indians fans, but it's an instantly recognizable relationship to many of the Native Americans protesting the pipeline.
"The link...is straightforward and simple," wrote Ray Halbritter and Jacqueline Pata in a September editorial for The Hill.
"A society that appropriates our culture without regard for the damage it does is one that will inevitably allow a powerful corporation to appropriate our lands without regard for our people."
Chief Wahoo is an image that continues to have its ardent local defenders, and why not, one might reasonably ask, with the enticement of the team shop and every Dick's Sporting Goods in the region. The Indians are likely not to wear the Block C, their "primary logo," once in the postseason.
Defenders argue that Wahoo is merely a cartoon intended to produce feelings of joy and enthusiasm. When they see it, they say, they don't think of Native Americans at all;
they think of baseball. (This is, one suspects, an inadvertent
case for Wahoo's dehumanization of Native Americans, but it's a striking case nonetheless).
Much less ardently defended are banners like these
. McClain High School in Greenfield, Ohio, (south of Columbus) played its opponent Hillsboro Friday night. Hillsboro's mascot is the Indians.
"Hey Indians," McClain's on-field banner teased, "Get Ready for a Trail of Tears."