American Indians in Ohio
The Cleveland, Ohio area has transformed since the state joined the union in 1803. In the 1700s the arrival of the first American settlers interested in fertile lands for farming encroached on the indigenous people leading to territorial wars. Treaties formally ceded all American Indian land possessions in Ohio by the mid-1800s. The original occupants moved west, most moved beyond the Mississippi River.
Arriving at the Cuyahoga River, the founder General Moses Cleaveland came to survey the land and incorporated what is now the second largest city in Ohio. According to the Museum of Natural History, researcher Brian Redmond reported that “the historic (post-1700) Native American tribes with documented land claims in northern Ohio include the Delaware, Wyandotte, Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Shawnee. The Seneca also claim historic residence in at least northeast Ohio. These general groupings include numerous Federally recognized tribal nations now living outside of Ohio.” As an archaeologist, he discusses the pre-European contact or “prehistoric” Native people of Ohio for which we have no specific tribal identities. These indigenous people occupied Ohio for some 13,000 years then apparently left Ohio just prior to the arrival of the historic tribes named above and the first European (French) explorers. The only exception are the Seneca who still remain in their western New York homeland.
According to the American Indian Education Center more than 5,000 American Indians live in Northeast Ohio today. There are no recognized American Indian tribes or lands in the state. Starting in 1957 with the arrival of a small group of American Indians well through the 1960s, continued the arrival of people from various tribes across the US making up the current population. As part of assimilation practices, the Bureau of Indian Affairs encouraged tribal nations to send their citizens off the reservations to local urban areas. The US tried to separate the American Indians from the reservations to leave behind their cultures and traditional ways of knowing. Today, American Indian people that call the Cleveland area home stand united with a strong identity that is very much American Indian. With their identities intact, the American Indian community prospers and mobilize to provide services and resources through agencies and organizations serving their community. The American Indians are are resilient and continue to exist in the urban setting, demonstrating that the relocation programs did not work. The American Indian centers hosts cultural activities and continue to invite traditional healers to their communities to help revitalize the indigenous ways of knowing.
Cleveland’s Professional Baseball Team Name
The Cleveland American Indian community is healing and recovering from intergenerational trauma due to relocation programs. Broken promises of prosperity brought economic hardship, homeless, and discrimination. In the 1970s, Cleveland was an early launching pad for the American Indian Movement (AIM) and practiced racial segregation in the schools. The iconic AIM leader Russell Means, a lakota man, led the people to protest the Cleveland baseball team and the founders day celebration. An account described at the Cleveland Museum of Art shared that the Cleveland AIM group led a demonstration to share experiences of the disconnection and ignorance of the local residents.
The AIM group was called by the organizers of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of General Moses Cleaveland. AIM members were asked to dress up in headdresses and costumes, that they be ready to perform in his honor. The group agreed but they didn’t show up in regalia and instead protested the baseball team logo and name and the founders day celebration. These events were racially charged. Signs protested the American Indian character loosely representing a chief that became the official team name between 1914 and 1915. The Cleveland baseball team logo is still protested at home games.
On both sides of the argument for using the team name and logo brings pain and frustration. The local residents take pride wishing to honor American Indian people and the other side wishes for the voices and diversity of tribes to be represented with respect of cultural identity. The use of derogatory images is destructive to the identity development of American Indians. Across the US, professional teams and organizations are responding to issues involving team logos, imagery, and social messages stereotyping American Indians. At the beginning of the 2019 season, Cleveland’s professional baseball team’s uniform will no longer done the insignia of the caricature of a Native American on the field.
Below is a list of the tribal nations that the Museum of Natural History consults with regarding American Indian issues in northern Ohio. Additional historical information on most of these tribal nations can be found on their respective websites.
Seneca Nation of Indians
Tonawanda Band of Senecas
Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
Shawnee Tribe (previously Shawnee Tribe, Oklahoma)
Delaware Nation of Oklahoma
Delaware Tribe of Indians
Ottawa Nation of Oklahoma
Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation
Forest County Potawatomi Community Wisconsin
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Oklahoma
These resources discuss the history of the relocation programs, Ohio state, the city of Cleveland, and the current Cleveland baseball team logo and name protests.